A comprehensive Estate Plan has many different components, but perhaps the most important parts of your plan are those having to do with your health. It’s essential to include healthcare documents in your Estate Plan so that you can make your wishes known and reduce the overall burden on your loved ones should a time come when you’re incapacitated and cannot make decisions on your own. Lucky for you, when you create your Will or Trust with Trust & Will, your Healthcare documents are included with your purchase.
Rest assured, none of the health documents we’ll discuss here are super intense to prepare. (But even if they were, the peace of mind you have once they’re in place is worth any amount of effort needed to create and execute them.)
Read on, as we cover the top three healthcare documents you should have as part of your Estate Plan:
1. Living Will
One of the first must-have health document you should know about is called a Living Will.
A Living Will is a formal, legal document that expresses what you would want in regards to medical treatment and interventions. It’s a type of Advance Directive that comes into play if you become incapacitated and are unable to express consent on your own.
More specifically, Living Wills are also used to directly express what you would not want to have happen in terms of medical decisions.
Things To Know About Your Living Will:
Not all of what’s below needs to be included in a Living Will, but here are some things to think about:
If you could not feed yourself - would you want a feeding tube?
If you need IV fluids - would you want artificial hydration?
If you were unable to breathe on your own - would you want to be intubated?
If you need resuscitation - should extreme measures be taken to revive you? Would you want Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? Or, do you want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) or a Do Not Intubate (DNI)?
Plan to donate your organs and/or tissue after you pass away - what organs would you want donated?
Direction on pain management - how much and what types of pain management procedures and drugs would you want (and for how long would you want them)?
*Laws regarding Living Wills and Advance Directives can vary by state. Any document you prepare should be specific to the state you live in. You should review, revise and update any Healthcare Directive if you move out of state.
2. HIPAA Authorization Form
HIPAA, or The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that went into effect in 1996. It had tremendous impacts on health insurance, patient privacy and healthcare in general.
You’re probably familiar with the most famous part of HIPPA, which involves privacy protections regarding your medical records. HIPAA ensures information about your personal health cannot be disclosed to any third parties without your consent.
Things To Know About Your HIPAA Authorization:
HIPAA Authorizations need to be written in very basic, clear language. Include the following:
Statement of purpose - description of information you’re disclosing.
Names - include any people you authorize to use, request or learn information about you.
Description - of the requested use.
Time frame - don’t forget to explicitly include an expiration date (NOTE: the date can be “none”).
Signature/date - nothing is legal without the proper signatures (NOTE: HIPAA authorizations do not need to be notarized or witnessed).
Description - include a statement noting you have a right to change or revoke the authorization at any time.
3. Powers of Attorney - General, Financial, Healthcare
Appointing Powers of Attorney ensures you have a trusted representative (an “agent”) who will be responsible for managing your affairs if you can’t do so yourself. There are several types of POAs, including General POA, Financial POA and a Medical or Healthcare POA - all have a wide range of authority you can authorize.
Your Healthcare Power of Attorney lets you appoint someone you trust to make health-related decisions for you if you’re unable to do so for yourself.
Things to Know About Your Healthcare POA:
A Healthcare POA can make critical decisions when time is of the essence while doing their best to follow the wishes stated in your Living Will. He or she can authorize doctors to make lifesaving measures on the fly, when there is literally no time to spare. But beyond that, they can also make long-term care decisions for you. Your Healthcare POA has authority to:
Choose doctors - a Healthcare POA can make decisions about doctors and other care providers.
Make decisions about your living arrangements - if you need any type of long-term care such as memory care, assisted living or a rehab facility.
Plan and hire long-term help - hire caregivers for basic needs like food and bathing.
Make decisions regarding medical care - including surgeries, tests, medication and more.
*A Healthcare POA isn’t necessarily the same thing as a Living Will. Some states allow certain preferences to be included in a Living Will, such as whether or not you’d want to be on life support. And in some states, you can combine aspects of a Living Will and a Healthcare POA into a separate legal document called an Advanced Healthcare Directive (AHCD). Be sure you know what your state allows.
Having the right types of healthcare documents in place can protect you and those closest to you. It’s really the only way you can ensure that your wishes will be honored. But beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, it can save your loved ones from having to make heart wrenching, painful decisions about healthcare choices if they’re unsure about what you would want.