Step 1. Write down the details of anyone who could potentially be asked to be a temporary substitute decision-maker
The list should include each person’s name, their relationship to you, and how to best contact them. Relevant details like “Johanna does night shifts and sleeps during the day” or “Max works as a teacher but can be called out of class for an emergency” will also be helpful.
Re-visit the requirements for temporary substitute decision-makers above. Make a note if someone who might be contacted doesn’t fit the criteria, such as “I’m estranged from my mother Maya Cruz.”
Everyone should do this. Even if you have a representation agreement, writing these details down acts as a back-up plan. For example, your representative might be out of the country, or otherwise unavailable.
Upon admission to a hospital or care facility, you may be asked to name your spouse or a “near relative,” to be contacted as required. For example, they may be contacted if your condition changes. They may be asked to help you understand your medical options.
This is a different purpose than that of a temporary substitute decision-maker. If someone needs to be chosen as your temporary substitute decision-maker, it may or may not be that same “near relative.”
Step 2. Give the detailed list to your health care provider
You can’t indicate preferences for certain people on your list. Your health care provider can’t just skip to someone at the bottom of the ranked list, and call them first. They must still work their way down the list, as set out by law. The point of writing down each person’s details is to save your health care provider valuable minutes, maybe even hours, when a medical decision needs to be made on your behalf.
Step 3. Share your wishes and values with anyone who could potentially become a decision-maker
When making a decision for you, a temporary substitute decision-maker is required, under the law, to follow any instructions or wishes you expressed while you were capable. They should also consider your known beliefs and values.
So it’s a good idea to share your wishes, values, and beliefs with anyone who could potentially make these decisions for you. This includes talking to family members and anyone who’s close to you. Doing so will give them the best chance to make decisions that align with what you would have wanted.
Step 4. Consider your other planning options
Think about every person in your life who could potentially be asked to be a temporary substitute decision-maker — would you ever want them to make a critical health care decision for you? If the answer is “no,” you should think about preparing other planning documents.
To get started, learn about your options for planning for your health care and personal care. If you’re ready to prepare legal documents, our pages on preparing enhanced representation agreements and advance directives step you through how to prepare these documents.