Estate planning is often thought of as a purely financial exercise, and of course, you do have to facilitate asset transfers to your loved ones. At the same time, it is important to prepare for the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life.
In this post, we will look at two essential advance directives for health care that should be part of your estate plan.
Life Support Preferences
If you are in a terminal condition late in your life with no hope of recovery, there may be life-support measures that could be implemented to prolong your life. These would include resuscitation, artificial respiration, and artificial nutrition and hydration.
Many people would prefer to let nature run its course under these circumstances, and this is fully understandable. There are others that would like to be kept alive for as long as possible. Your closest relative would be forced to make this life or death decision on your behalf if you do nothing to assert your wishes in advance.
You can take the matter into your own hands through the execution of an advance directive for health care called a living will. In addition to the life support choices, you can also state your preferences with regard to organ donation and comfort care medications.
Health Care Representative
The other advance directive that everyone should have is a durable power of attorney for health care. You are probably aware of the fact that a power of attorney is a document that can be used to give someone else permission to act on your behalf in a legally binding manner.
It is possible to define the types of decisions that an agent can make when you execute a power of attorney, so a durable power of attorney for health care would be limited to medical matters. The “durable” designation is significant, because this type of POA would remain in effect if you become incapacitated.
There is another option called a springing durable power of attorney. This variation would only go into effect if you become incapacitated. A durable power of attorney that does not include the springing verbiage would be effective as soon as you execute it.
Obviously, the health care representative would need all relevant medical information to be able to make sound decisions for you. Because of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), doctors are not allowed to share this information with anyone other than the patient.
However, you can include a HIPAA release form to waive your right to privacy with respect to your agent and anyone else that you would like to add.
It should be noted that these documents are important for all adults, even those that are quite young. To provide a hypothetical example, let’s say that your daughter is 18 years old, and she goes away to college. She gets into a car accident, and she is rushed to the hospital unconscious.
Under these circumstances, if you were to call the medical facility, the people there would not be allowed to tell you anything about her condition unless there was a HIPAA authorization in place.
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