Co-authored by Joanna C. Feldman

As Monday, April 16, 2018, was Health Care Decision Day, your question is timely.  In New York, a Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you should you become mentally incapacitated.  You can even appoint a successor should the primary person be unable or unavailable to serve. Your health care agent is someone you trust to carry out your health care wishes.  Because the health care provider must follow the agent’s instructions, it’s a way to control your health care when you’re not able to do so yourself. It is important to note that so long as you can make your own decisions, your health care agent has no authority.  

If you don’t have a health care proxy, New York State law provides a back up that works in certain situations.  For instance, if you wind up in a hospital or nursing home and are unable to make your own health care decisions, the law provides a specific order of priority in terms of persons who are allowed to make them for you.  You may not, however, have communicated your wishes to the person with the highest priority. Or perhaps the person with highest priority is not who you want to make your health care decisions. Or perhaps there are multiple persons with the same priority.  Executing a Health Care Proxy can avoid these situations. More importantly, this statutory health care proxy does not apply outside of a hospital or nursing home setting.

Having advance directives in place is critical should you lose your capacity.  The Health Care Proxy, however, only addresses health care. Decisions concerning financial, property, and other issues are governed by a Power of Attorney, and we strongly advise that everyone have both.

Managing the financial and health care needs of you and your loved ones can be easier with the right professional guidance.  Please contact us to discuss your options. We can be reached at 914-925-1010 or by e-mail at Questions may be submitted to for a response.

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