When you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself, the power to make life-support decisions for you is transferred to the person you designate as your agent in your Living Will or Health Care Power of Attorney. This person must act according to the directives set out in that document. The person that you designate as your agent should be someone you know and trust. Some states refer to the agent as an "attorney-in-fact," "health care agent," "health care proxy," "health care representative," "patient advocate," "proxy" or "surrogate."

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The statutes of most states require that your agent be an adult. In addition, under most circumstances, your agent cannot be your health care provider (for example, a physician, nurse, employee, officer, director, or operator of a home health agency, hospital, nursing home, or residential care facility) unless that person is related to you. In selecting an agent for your Living Will, you should not designate a person who is, or may become, directly involved in providing health care to you unless that person is your spouse or a family member.

Make sure your agent is willing to assume responsibility for your medical decision making. If she agrees to be your proxy, talk with her about your values, beliefs and desires. Good health care agents are able to separate their own feelings from yours and your wishes, but may feel guilt and anguish at having to make such difficult end-of-life decisions. Communicating early and often with your agent can help ensure that both you and your agent are comfortable and at peace with your life-support wishes.

Choose just one person to serve as your agent at a given time to avoid conflicts. But choose an alternate agent in case the primary agent is not available. Once you have selected an agent, make sure they get a copy of your Living Will, and tell your family and physician whom you’ve selected.

Many individuals give their health care agents broad authority to override their written Living Will. Other individuals give the written Living Will priority. Make sure to articulate which instruction to follow when there is a conflict between your agent and your Living Will.

Create your Living Will with Rocket Lawyer. If you have questions about choosing an agent, contact an estate planning attorney.

Get started Start Your Living Will Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Living Will Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.