We are going to look at a particular document that should be part of your estate plan, but first, we have to provide some context. When you understand the larger picture, can take the right steps to prepare yourself.
Aging and Incapacity
It is hard to imagine life as an octogenarian, but the longevity statistics are eye-opening in this regard. The average lifespan in the United States is about 78 years when you are looking at all deaths, but many people pass away when they are very young or relatively young.
The anticipated lifespan of older adults is considerably higher. For example, the expected longevity for a man that is celebrating his 67th birthday today is 85 years, and it is 87 years for a woman.
Clearly, many people that are in their 80s become unable to make sound decisions. Cognitive impairment is very common, and Alzheimer’s disease is a leading culprit. It strikes over 30% of the oldest old, and in addition to cognitive incapacity, physical ailments can make communication impossible.
To prepare for possible incapacity, you should empower representatives to handle your financial affairs. If you have a revocable living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are living. In the trust declaration, you can name a disability trustee to assume the role in the event of your incapacity.
You can also execute a durable power of attorney for property to name an agent to manage property that is not a trust. The “durable” designation is important, because it would remain in effect if the grantor becomes incapacitated.
Advanced Directives for Healthcare
Now we can start to hone in on the subject of this post. In addition to the financial part of the equation, you have to account for medical decision-making when you are devising your incapacity plan.
If you are ever in a terminal condition, would you want to be kept alive through the use of life-sustaining measures like artificial nutrition and hydration, resuscitation, or mechanical respiration? You can answer this question through the execution of a living will.
The document can go through each different type of life support on an individual basis if you want to get specific, and you can add comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices.
For medical decision-making that is not related to life-support, you can name a representatives through the execution of a durable power of attorney for healthcare.
On August 21, 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted. It was put into place to protect patient privacy on many different levels. A provision contained within it prevents doctors from communicating medical information to anyone other than the patient.
You should include a HIPAA release to give your agent and anyone else that you want to add the ability to speak freely with your physicians.
We should point out the fact that HIPAA protections extend to 18-year-old adults. If you have a child that is reaching this age, their doctors would be bound by these restrictions. For this reason, a HIPAA release should be signed to give you access to your adult child’s medical information.
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At the end of the process, you can go forward with a tailor-made plan that is perfect for you and your family.
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