Make your aging parents’ Health Care Proxies are accessible and is up to date.
A well-structured Estate Plan must consider the possibility that your parents will be alive but incapacitated and unable to make their own financial or health care decisions. A Health Care Proxy (“HCP”) is the document in New York which allows your parents to select a person (called an “agent”) to make their health care decisions in the event they are unable to do so.
Since a HCP is effective only after a parent is determined to “lack capacity” and because it is most useful in times of a medical emergency, you should make multiple copies of the HCP and distribute them widely. Persons to whom you should distribute a HCP include: the primary care physician, the first named health care agent, the alternate health care agent and adult children. It may be advisable to keep copies in a readily accessible place in your parents’ home (i.e., a sock drawer) so that if one copy of the HCP has been mislaid there will be others easily available.
There are practical reasons to refresh a HCP. The HCP contains the name and address of the agent, and his or her address may change over time. Additionally, a parent may wish to change agents and name another person to fulfill this important task. You’ll want the content of the HCP itself to identify the agent and his or her contact information to avoid confusion and delay in the event of a medical emergency. While a properly executed HCP remains valid over time; there is a common misconception that a HCP can go “stale.” Again, in a time of medical emergency you’ll not want to spend valuable time convincing hospital employees that the HCP executed more than 5-years ago is still valid today. Better to execute a new HCP with a current date and the most recent contact information of the agent.
Download our Health Care Proxy overview. (PDF)