Your estate plan should include critical health-related documents as well as traditional property documents such as wills and trusts.
That means that preparing your estate plan will involve issues such as determining who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. There is no recommended age to prepare healthcare documents–in fact, the sooner the better. Illness can strike at any time, and accidents can place anyone into a coma or render them unable to make their own medical decisions.
What Documents are Important for Medical Decisions?
There are several forms of documentation that are helpful when it comes to creating a healthcare decision-making plan. These documents can give your family a clear plan to follow should anything happen to you, along with the ability to carry out your wishes.
- HIPAA Release Form
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) enhanced patient privacy protections. Without a HIPAA release form, a healthcare provider won’t release your health information to unauthorized persons. By designating in advance who is eligible to obtain medical updates about your condition, you can save a lot of frustration for your family later on.
- Living Will
Sometimes referred to as an advance directive, a living will is a declaration of an individual’s desires regarding life-prolonging medical treatment. These documents generally take effect only when a doctor determines that a patient has no reasonable medical probability of recovering from a terminal condition, end-life condition, or persistent vegetatitve state. In a living will, an individual can specify whether or not they wish to receive life-prolonging measures in particular circumstances. Sometimes, the attorney drafting the advance directive might ask a series of hypothetical questions to allow the client to indicate the level of care they would want in each scenario.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney (HPOA)
Also known as a healthcare surrogate designation, a healthcare power of attorney authorizes one or more trusted individiuals to make medical decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated. Having more than one person involved adds another layer of safety to the process in case your sole designee is unavailable. However, having too many people involved could result in a stalemate, so it would be wise to seek your attorney’s recommendation regarding designation of a healthcare decision maker in your unique situation
Keep Everything Together
Don’t risk your wishes being overlooked because someone didn’t see all of your documentation. Make sure all of your medical documents are kept together. Have multiple copies, and make sure all of your loved ones are aware of your wishes. Send copies to your primary care physicians, and consider filing it with an online registry so that any doctor treating you can find your documents with a simple search.
Different states have different requirements for advance directives and other medical documentation. Some require two witnesses, some three, and some states require that your documents be officially notarized. If you split your time between several states, you’ll want to ensure that you correctly prepare your documents in each jurisdiction.
We Can Help with Healthcare Planning
Give yourself and your loved ones peace of mind for the future by ensuring that your documents are valid, properly drafted, and in compliance with all the necessary rules. At Amy L. Phillips, PLLC, we can create a comprehensive estate plan that includes the right directives for important healthcare decisions in Florida and Pennsylvania.