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Do I need a Health Care Proxy and Living Will?

A common misunderstanding in the world of Elder Law and Special Needs Planning is the distinction between a Health Care Proxy and Living Will in New York – or whether there is any distinction at all. Both documents are essential from a planning standpoint, but each has unique features and objectives.


A Health Care Proxy is a document that allows you to designate a health care agent to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you become incapacitated. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes as expressed by your agent.

It is important to carefully consider your health care wishes and make them known to your health care agent. Once your Health Care Proxy is validly executed, give a copy to your agent, primary care provider, and a few choice family members. It’s also good practice to have a copy accessible in case of an unexpected emergency.

A Living Will is a document that spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you wish to have administered to you in the event that you are incapable of communicating your wishes. A Living Will may also be referred to as a Health Care Declaration or Health Care Directive.

Having these documents in place can save you and your loved ones unnecessary pain and suffering, and ensure that you remain in control of your own health care decisions.  State laws can vary so it is best to seek the counsel of an elder law attorney.

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