A lot of people think that estate planning is all about the creation of a will or trust to facilitate asset transfers when the time comes. This is definitely a large part of the equation, but a well-constructed estate plan will also address end-of-life issues.
People often do not pass away after being perfectly capable of communicating sound decisions up until the end. You should certainly account for this when you are developing your estate plan.
Advance directives for health care will be part of the incapacity component, and we will look at them in this blog post.
Would you want doctors to keep you alive through the use of life-sustaining measures if you were in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery? This is a personal question, and it is one that you should answer for yourself in advance. This can be done through the execution of a legally binding document called a living will.
You can record your preferences regarding resuscitation, machine assisted respiration, artificial hydration, and artificial nutrition in your living will.
Plus, different people have different ideas about the use of pain medication. This is another type of preference that you can express in the document. It would also be possible to record your choices with regard to organ and tissue donations, and you can specify individual organs.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
You are probably aware of the fact that a power of attorney is a document that you can use to give somebody else the power to act for you in a legally binding manner. There are general powers of attorney that give sweeping powers of representation, and there are also limited powers of attorney.
A power of attorney that is not durable would no longer be in effect if the grantor of the device were to become incapacitated. However, you could create a durable power of attorney for health care that would give the agent the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
It should be noted that these health care powers of attorney cover matters that are not covered in the living will. Your direct choices in your living will would be binding on your health care agent.
In order for your agent to make informed decisions, they would need access to all of your medical information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act generally prevents doctors from sharing information with anyone other than the patient. To account for this, you should include a HIPAA authorization form to give your agent access to your medical records and medical providers.
Estate planning attorneys always emphasize the importance of planning for adults of all ages, but many people do not pay attention. They feel as though they will have plenty of time to put an estate plan in place when they are old and gray. The idea is that younger adults don’t have to think about these matters because they are simply not relevant.
This may make sense on the surface, but imagine this scenario. Your 18-year-old son goes away to college, has a serious accident, and is unable to communicate to the doctors. Under these circumstances, they would not be able to tell you anything about his condition because of HIPAA constraints.
The medical professionals would be able to share information if there was a HIPAA authorization in place. This is one of the reasons why adults of all ages should consider the importance of estate planning.
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