Estate planning attorneys are like everyone else when it comes to avoiding negativity and hoping for the best. At the same time, it is our job to provide wake-up calls, and we have to bring up sensitive subjects.
We always emphasize the fact that anything can happen to anyone at any time, so advance planning is important for people of all ages. A particular event will sometimes underscore this reality, like the Kobe Bryant helicopter crash tragedy.
Without question, the pandemic that we are experiencing has sounded the alarm in this regard. It is now surging as winter draws nearer, and flu season can only make matters worse.
The good news is that we can do the right things to minimize our risks, and this should extend to the planning process if you are currently unprepared.
If you become unable to communicate due to a serious illness or accident related injuries, who would make decisions on your behalf? You can answer this question yourself in advance if you proactively implement an incapacity plan, and it will start with advance health care directives.
A living will is one of these directives. This document is used to record your preferences with regard to the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical respiration, feeding tubes, and artificial nutrition. The living will can also include comfort care medication and organ donation choices.
Another advance directive that should be included is a durable power of attorney for health care. This document is used to empower an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if it ever becomes necessary.
The decisions that would fall to the health care agent would be matters that are not directly addressed in the living will.
Back in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted to protect the privacy of patients. Prior to its enactment, information was shared rather liberally for commercial purposes.
A provision contained within it prevents doctors from communicating information about a patient’s medical condition with anyone other than the patient. Because of this restriction, you should include a HIPAA release to allow medical personnel to communicate freely with your health care agent.
While we are on this topic, we should touch upon the fact that these privacy protections are afforded to young people as soon as they become adults in the eyes of the law. With this in mind, if you have a young adult child, you may want to encourage them to sign a HIPAA release.
In addition to the health care part of the equation, you can empower someone to manage your financial affairs through the execution of a durable power of attorney for property. If you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee to act as the administrator in the event of your incapacity.
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The final piece of the puzzle will be the inheritance planning component, and the ideal way to facilitate asset transfers will depend upon the circumstances.
We can gain an understanding of your family dynamic, your financial situation, and your objectives and make recommendations. If you decide to go forward, we can apply our expertise to develop a holistic plan that is custom crafted to ideally suit your needs.
In light of the threat that is posed by the pandemic, we are offering remote consultation options if you would rather get the help that you need from the comfort of your own home. Of course, if you would prefer to come into the office, you can rest assured that we follow all best practices.
If you are ready to set up an appointment, we can be reached by phone at 310-337-7696, and there is a contact form on this site you can use to send us a message.