What Is a Patient Advocate and Why Do You Need One?

The main focus of estate planning is determining what happens when you die. However, there are also important decisions to make about situations that may occur while you are alive.

One of these decisions is selecting a patient advocate.

What is a patient advocate?

A patient advocate is a person you designate to make medical or mental health treatment decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions yourself.

Why do I need a patient advocate?

It is not uncommon for people to become either physically or mentally incapacitated before dying. Appointing a patient advocate relieves your family of the burden of petitioning the probate court for guardianship so that they can make decisions about your medical care, funeral arrangements and other preferences.

How do I appoint a patient advocate?

You can name a person your patient advocate when you create a medical power of attorney. It is also helpful to outline your wishes in a living will so that you have written documentation about decisions such as whether to continue life support, donate your organs or receive specific medical treatments.

In addition to explaining your wishes to your patient advocate, provide copies of your living will to your successor trustee, agent and personal representative if these people are different from your patient advocate.

Choosing a patient advocate is one of several tools you can employ to ensure that your family and medical team know and follow your preferences if you become incapacitated. This can provide peace of mind for you and your family.