Knowing what your Healthcare Estate Planning Documents are and how they each play a vital role in the success of your plan is important. In our firm we have a number of documents that we include in every estate planning package and there’s a very good reason for it. You need each one.
I have heard before, “I have a Living Will, why do I need a Healthcare Power of Attorney?” A Living Will or Advance Directive gives instructions to your physicians and healthcare agents as to how you want to be treated under three situations: Terminal Condition, Persistent Vegetative State, and End-Stage Condition.
Terminal Condition means that you have a condition by which your death is imminent and even if life-sustaining procedures are used, there is no reasonable expectation of recovery.
Persistent Vegetative State means that you are not conscious and are not aware of your environment or able to interact with others and there is no reasonable expectation of recovery.
End-State Condition means that you have a condition caused by injury, disease or illness, as a result of which you have suffered severe and permanent deterioration, indicated by incompetence and complete physical dependency and for which to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, treatment of the irreversible condition would be medically ineffective.
Our firm’s Living Will also affords you the opportunity to decide who will be making your funeral arrangements and the ultimate disposition of your body. It is important for you to put this information in writing, because you don’t want this to be left open for your family to squabble about. You can also make an organ donation declaration in your Living Will.
So, what then does a Healthcare Power of Attorney do? A healthcare Power of Attorney appoints someone, your agent, to step into your shoes when you are no longer able to make decisions regarding your healthcare. This document can be used by your Agent to determine things like, what type of treatment you should receive, whether you should receive medication or rehab therapy, or which hospital you should go to. This document will be utilized in all circumstances, not just in the 3 situations a Living Will covers.
Another important Estate Planning tool is to have a HIPAA authorization form. HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a law that protects private health insurance information. This law makes it virtually impossible for your loved ones to obtain medical information or your medical records without your authorization. This is all well and good when you’re in good health, but what happens if you become incapacitated and you have not signed the doctor’s HIPAA form? Your loved ones may be out of luck. This form will enable you to designate your healthcare agents and other family members as authorized persons to receive your medical information or records.
Finally, it is important to know that when you need your documents at a moment’s notice, they will be there. In an emergency, sometimes it’s difficult to remember to grab your Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney. Perhaps your loved one or Agent doesn’t want to have to go to your house to search for them, but wants to get to the hospital. Our firm offers with every estate plan, a free one year enrollment in a service that will fax your healthcare documents to the hospital when you need them most. As you can see, we’ve got every base covered.
The last thing your family needs during a time of crisis is an obstacle. Make sure they have everything they need to make sure that your needs are met and they have the means to ensure that it happens.
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