A health care proxy is someone that you can select to relay your medical wishes to doctors should be you become incapacitated or unable to voice them yourself. Once you draft one of these, it can change the course of your life. There are certain qualities that you should look for when appointing someone to this role.

You first become eligible to draft your own health care power of attorney when you turn 18. Up until that age, your parents are the ones who are allowed to make such decisions on your behalf.

In addition to drafting your health care proxy right away after you turn 18, you should also revisit it every time that you start a new chapter in your life. This means that you should give it another look before you head to college, if you’re going on a trip or are diagnosed with an illness. You also want to do the same when you get married, divorced or your kids are born. A good rule of thumb is to revisit it at least once every decade.

The proxy that you select must be able to listen to what doctors are saying about your condition then render quick decisions that are aligned with your preferences — instead of their own. In many cases, an individual may find that having a family member or spouse take on the role isn’t ideal, since they may have difficulty in keeping their emotions out of things.

It’s illegal in most jurisdictions for someone who works at the same facility where you’re being treated or is a member of your medical team to also serve as your proxy.

Having two proxies isn’t ideal as they may have different ideas about your preferences. Appointing an alternate to step in and make decisions may be helpful. Whatever your choice, it’s important to let the person you pick know what your expectations are in various situations.

It can be hard for you to figure out how you’d respond to a particular situation unless you’re in the moment. Your doctor can explain the benefits of making one choice versus another. If you need help in selecting a proxy, then a Trenton estate planning and probate attorney can give you additional pointers as to what to look for in the person you select and guide you in telling them about your wishes.