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Health Care & Insurance

3 Simple Steps to Pick a Health Care Proxy

Planning ahead can help save your loved ones some hassle.


Step 1

Choose who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you become unable to do so, such as your spouse or partner, a trusted friend, or a relative. Be sure to discuss your wishes for care, including end-of-life treatment, with the person you ask (often called a health care proxy or agent). Also name one or two people as backup agents.

Step 2

Go to and download the advance health care directive for your state. In the section called “Power of Attorney for Health Care” (some states use other terms), list your agent and backup agent. You may also provide written guidance as to the kind of treatment you want or do not want, or limit your agent’s decision-making authority. (Some states provide a separate form, known as a living will, for those purposes.) Be aware that providing specific instructions may limit your agent’s ability to deal with unforeseen circumstances.

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Step 3

Sign and date the form in the presence of a witness or witnesses. Some states require you to have the document notarized as well, and some give you a choice between witnesses and a notary. Make copies of the document, and give them to your agent, doctors and others involved in your care. In some states, you can file your advance directive with an online registry so family and medical providers can easily find it. Or place a copy of the document in a clearly labeled envelope and attach it to your refrigerator door.

The payoff

The agent you choose will be your advocate in a medical crisis.