A lot of people think that estate planning is strictly confined to the facilitation of postmortem asset transfers. Without question, this is the most important consideration, but a well-constructed estate plan will also address the medical eventualities that you may face as an elder.
Life Support Utilization
This is not a very pleasant subject to contemplate, but it is important to confront these matters head-on. Some patients with serious medical conditions become unable to communicate treatment decisions.
If you do not take the correct steps to assert your wishes in advance, your closest family member will be forced to make difficult decisions on your behalf. These matters are personal, and no one should be forced to make life-and-death decisions for someone else.
In addition to this dynamic, family members can sometimes disagree with regard to the correct course of action, and this can cause hard feelings at the worst possible time.
You can take the matter into your own hands if you execute documents called advance directives for health care, and one of them is a living will.
This type of will is used to assert your choices regarding the use of life-sustaining measures like cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, feeding tubes, and artificial hydration.
The document can also be utilized to state your organ and tissue donation designations, and if you have comfort care medication preferences, you can include them in the living will.
Health Care Proxy
Situations can arise that require decision-making that are not directly related to the implementation of life support methods. To account for this possibility, you should execute a document called a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care.
The agent you name would be empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf, but there is another element to consider.
Your physicians would not be able to share medical information with your representative because of a provision contained within the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To provide that access, you should include a HIPAA release.
Your incapacity plan should also address financial matters, and in addition to physical ailments, this can apply to cognitive impairment. If you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee to assume the role in the event of your incapacity.
For property that is not held by a trust, you can add a durable power of attorney for property. You can name the same person to act as the representative in both powers of attorney, but this is not required.
While we are on the subject of advance directives for health care, we should look at an often overlooked detail, and the best way to explain is through the use of an example.
Let’s say that your daughter goes away to college, and she is 18 years of age. In the eyes of the law, she is an adult, and you would certainly recognize the implications for the most part.
However, you may never consider the fact that her doctors would not be able to share information about her medical condition with you if she was to fall ill or become injured.
To account for this, you should make sure that your children execute durable powers of attorney as soon as they reach the age of majority so you can speak freely with their physicians.
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