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Health Care Proxy

When appointing someone to make healthcare decisions for you, you need someone you trust. We'll help ensure your health lies in the right person's hands.


Getting older brings new concerns and considerations, especially surrounding health and wellbeing. One of the things people tend to fear the most is losing control of the decision-making process and finding themselves in situations they would never have elected. 


Luckily, there are legal steps a person can take earlier in life to prepare for these moments, should they ever come. A health care proxy is one prime example that people should be aware of and seriously consider as part of their plan for their old age.

What Is a Health Care Proxy?

In short, a health care proxy is a legally appointed person or persons who have the power to act in someone’s place and make decisions about their health if or when they are no longer considered fit to do so. 


Usually, a single party has sole power as a proxy, although a person may choose to elect a chain of successors- in case the first choice is unavailable in the moment of need. The legal document arranged before the fact acts as proof of the person’s decision and hands over the rights to the other party- only when it is deemed necessary. 


A health care proxy is also known as medical power of attorney and is covered under a durable power of attorney.


The Kelley Financial Group has years of experience in guiding businesses and individuals through complex financial matters.

Why Is It Advisable to Elect a Health Care Proxy or POA?

Sometimes, people have not thought about what happens if they become too ill to make their own decisions. It is not something people want to consider, but the truth is that it can happen. Often, people decide to set up a health care proxy when their health begins to deteriorate, but it can help to have everything in place earlier to avoid any additional stress.


There are several reasons why arranging a medical power of attorney is advisable and beneficial- none more important than the fact that without one, nobody has clear control over what should be done. 


  • In cases where someone becomes too ill to make decisions, state laws take power. Some states leave decisions with the doctors or other health care professionals, and others pass the power over to the most direct family member. Although, for some people, family is the first choice, it is often not the case. 

  • By personally selecting someone as a health care proxy (and a backup, just in case), a person ensures that their interests and choices are carried out based on their wishes. Some people prefer not to pick direct family members for emotional reasons.

  • A health care proxy has nothing to do with finances. By nominating a medical power of attorney separately from a financial power attorney, the person ensures that decisions are not made to benefit anything other than their wellbeing. 

  • The idea of a health care proxy is to entitle a person to make decisions based on what the ill party would want. If they prepare this in advance, they have the opportunity to discuss and specify their preferred choices with their trusted agent to lay out a clear plan of action as they would choose it. 


Like most things related to late-life planning, a health care proxy helps maintain power over decisions and living standards. Without pre-planning, things can quickly get away from people, and they can be left in upsetting situations with no clear guiding instruction on what should happen.

Who Can Act as a Health Care Power of Attorney?

Almost anyone can be appointed medical power of attorney, provided they are over 18 years of age and are deemed mentally competent. It is entirely up to the person whose life is in question who they want to represent their wishes in their most difficult moments: a decision that should not be taken lightly. 


Some things to consider when choosing a health care proxy agent are:


  • How much is the person trusted to carry out wishes?

  • Are they able to clearly communicate and make decisions as free from emotion as possible?

  • Do they feel comfortable having power of attorney over medical decisions that could ultimately determine the end of a person’s life?

  • Is the person detail oriented and capable of asking the questions that need to be asked?

  • Are they assertive enough to ensure the right decision is made regardless of what others may want if it is not in line with what the patient asked?

  • Does the person have other motivation to go against medical wishes- be it for financial or religious reasons?

  • Are they a trusted, well-known, and honorable individual to the person whose health is in question?


Although anyone can be a medical proxy, not everyone should be. Anyone making this decision should think about these points and be sure their elected agent meets the criteria and fully understands the wishes.

Preparing a Health Care Proxy

Setting up a health care proxy is straightforward, but each state has different requirements, so it is best to speak to an expert in Pittsburgh to ensure compliance with local laws. A lawyer is not required in most cases- just witnesses, but an advisor at The Kelley Financial Group can explain in further detail when an attorney may be necessary. 


Once the person has been chosen and the document prepared, a copy should be kept by:


  • The individual for their records

  • The elected proxy

  • Any essential medical practitioners, where applicable


It is then important to discuss the following:


  • The person giving proxy’s feelings, values, and beliefs surrounding quality of life 

  • Specific treatments instructions (for or against)

  • Preference between comfort-focused care or treatment to sustain life

  • Plan in the case of long-term unconsciousness

  • Life support decisions in the case of unexpected recovery

  • Feelings about caregivers and facilities


The advisors at The Kelley Financial Group have years of experience guiding people through processes that can most impact the later stages of their lives. They understand the sensitive nature of these decisions and work closely with clients to help provide comfort and understanding.


This material was prepared for The Kelley Financial Group’s use. 

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies or investments may be suitable for you, consult the appropriate qualified professional prior to making a decision. 

The Kelley Financial Group and LPL Financial do not offer tax or legal advice or services. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

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