When setting up an estate plan there are three very important health care documents that I recommend to my clients.
The first document is a Health Care Power of Attorney. This document designates the health care agent (the person you choose to act on your behalf) to make health care decisions for you when you are not able to communicate. These decisions include reviewing medical records, speaking to doctors and nurses, employing health care providers, authority to ride in an ambulance, and the ability to visit you in the hospital.
The second document is a Living Will. Some people call this the “pull the plug” document. I call it the “pull the plug or don’t pull the plug” document. Once you inform your health care agent of your wishes regarding your end of life treatment, your living will, along with the health care power of attorney, permits your agent to carry out your wishes. These decisions may include directions to your health care agent as to what medical procedures, i.e. medication for pain, nutrition and hydration by tubes, you want when you are at the end of your life. Also included in your living will is your decision regarding organ donation. You are the one who states these decisions in your Living Will and your health care agent will carry them out.
The third document is an authorization to release medical information form. Commonly referred to as a HIPAA form, this document allows the people that you designate to access your medical records. This document is important if you are in the hospital or are unable to move about. Your representative will be able to fill prescriptions for you, pick up important medical documents and review you medical records.
Why is it important to put your health care wishes in writing? To provide direction at what often is a highly emotional time, and to take the mystery out of the equation and alleviate conflict among those you love and those who love you.
It is advisable to seek the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure your health care directives work in the manner that you choose.
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