Estate planning is not only a method to protect the financial assets of the protected party. In fact, finances are only a part of a comprehensive estate plan. Medical planning and decisions should be made and kept in mind when making an estate plan. Once these decisions are made, and an estate plan is executed, the person’s medical providers should also be kept in the loop on these decisions.
Life happens, and individuals of any age can become sick or incapacitated due to an illness or severe injury, which can make it difficult for them to make medical decisions on their short and long-term health care. A proper estate plan also lets the individual’s doctors and medical professionals know what type of medical care the person wants to receive in the event the unthinkable happens.
It can be tempting to want to hold off on making these types of decisions. To many, thinking about their eventual death or incapacity can seem morbid. However, death or long-term illness are an inevitable part of life, and something that cannot be avoided.
If someone is going through a medical crisis that is causing them to go through a significant cognitive decline and loss of function, it is important that this person dictate what their wishes are with end-of-life care. Sometimes, the person is not able to dictate how he or she wishes to be treated, and healthcare directives and other estate planning tools can help that person at least appoint who they want to handle making these decisions.
The alternative to not having these documents can be costly. Without medical directives, the loved ones and family members of the incapacitated person will need to file legal proceedings to have these appointments made via court order. This alternative can be costly and lengthy for these individuals, which is less than desirable. Therefore, it is important that the individual work with an estate planning attorney to make sure that the right estate plan is in place from the start.
Most individuals consider an estate plan to only include a last will and testament or revocable living trust or similar document. While these documents are important for planning that the assets of the covered person will be handled, as well as, who will be responsible for the care of any affected minor children, they do not adequately cover the wishes of the covered person while they are living.
Having these documents in place not only make it clear to medical providers and loved ones of the affected person how they wish to be treated, but they also help avoid family conflicts. If family members do not necessarily agree with the treatment selected by the covered individual, but these wishes are in a signed, written document, the family members have no choice but to follow those wishes.
One of the most common disputes in these end-of-life decisions have to do with whether to keep a person on life support if he or she has no viable likelihood of living without the support of medical technology.
If someone does not want to be kept alive artificially on life support, these wishes would need to be expressly listed in a living will, also known as a “do not resuscitate” document. This subject is one that people often feel very strongly about, and it is often a tough decision for the loved ones of a sick individual to make. Therefore, it is important that a living will is included as a part of an estate plan and that this document be shared with that person’s medical providers.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Another important document that needs to be a part of every estate plan is a healthcare power of attorney or HPOA. This document makes the person’s wishes known as to who will have the legal authority to make medical decisions related to the covered individual’s care and well-being.
This document goes hand-in-hand with a living will and should always be shared with the covered individual’s healthcare provider. The person who is named in an HPOA will be allowed to discuss treatment options with that person’s doctors and will be able to make decisions that are in line with the covered person’s wishes.
It is important to carefully consider who will be allowed to make these decisions and discuss these wishes with their agents.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPPA laws dictate who has access to someone’s medical records. Without a HIPAA authorization document, medical providers are not allowed to disclose information to family members or friends of another person. An estate planning attorney can help prepare the proper documents needed to protect the person’s well-being but also allow family members to communicate with medical providers on how they want to be treated.
Contact Brian M. Douglas, LLC Today!
Proper estate planning can help prevent many issues down the road, and ensure your wishes are carried out. Call us today at 770-933-9009 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with a Greater Atlanta area probate lawyer today.