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Did someone just ask you to be their medical power of attorney?

One of the biggest things someone can ask you to do is to take on the responsibility of being their medical power of attorney.

Also called a health care proxy, you would be called into action only when your friend or relative was unable to make their own medical decisions. That might include a time following a serious accident, times when they're unconscious due to anesthesia or (most likely) during the end of their life when they're suffering from dementia or something similar.

Here are things you need to consider before you accept the job:

Do you know their wishes for end-of-life care?

Having a clear, careful discussion about end-of-life care, including life-prolonging measures like assisted respiration, dialysis and feeding tubes. You also need to discuss when they believe that comfort care should be the focus, instead of curative or life-prolonging measures. Make certain that your beliefs allow you to be comfortable making those hard decisions and following their wishes.

Are you able to assert yourself effectively?

Different family members may have different feelings about what kind of medical care should be tried -- and their emotions may boil over when the situation gets tough. Do you have the ability to stand your ground and do what you think your friend or relative really wants? It's not easy to oppose people who have strong opinions in a calm, forthright manner.

Do you know what you need to do, legally speaking?

You may need to review medical records, have conversations with doctors and make decisions about where that person receives care. Some people may feel uncomfortable taking on such a big responsibility. If you aren't prepared for that kind of obligation, it's better to be honest now.

Estate planning is an essential part of a well-prepared life. Find out more about health care proxies today.

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