Having health care directives are important for incapacity planning.
People often think they are invincible.
Illnesses and injuries happen to other people.
They will never happen to us or our loved ones.
According to a recent The Times-Tribune article titled “Health care directive beneficial for anyone,” these beliefs can have big consequence for you and your loved ones.
If an adult becomes incapacitated for even a short time, he or she will be unable to make medical decisions during that period of time.
This means he or she may not receive the medical care they want or need if incapacitated.
To prevent this situation from happening to you, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create advance health care directives as part of your estate plan if you are at least age 18.
What do you need?
The first health care document you should have is an Advanced Health Care Directive, also known as a Living Will.
This is where you will communicate in writing your decisions regarding medical treatment should you be unable to communicate them yourself.
The second document is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions.
With this document, you appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf.
Obviously, the person you appoint for this role should be someone trustworthy.
[In our practice, our Advance Health Care Directive consists of a Health Care Treatment Directive and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions. We also include an Anatomical Gift Declaration as part of our Advance Health Care Directive.]
The final document you should sign is a HIPAA Privacy Authorization.
This gives a health care provider permission to discuss your medical information with a person or persons of your choosing.
Without the document, your doctors are not permitted to discuss your lab results, diagnostic reports, medical history, or medical status with your family or appointed agents.
While some people face long-term incapacity due to injury or illness, short-term incapacity is not uncommon.
Short-term incapacity often occurs from surgery or intense medical treatments.
Having these essential and practical legal documents in place will allow your loved ones to be updated and involved as necessary with your medical decisions.
They are also important if you need someone else to help you schedule medical appointments, contact insurance, and work with billing departments at hospitals.
Setting up an Advance Health Care Directive is especially important for those who are unmarried.
Without documents in place, your partner or your parents will be unable to support you in the midst of your incapacity.
Reference: The Times-Tribune (Aug. 15, 2021) “Health care directive beneficial for anyone”