When you decide it’s time to create an estate plan there are important documents that should always be included no matter your age, marital status, or if you do or do not have children. These include powers of attorney, healthcare and emergency documents. An experienced estate planning lawyer from Power Law Firm LLP can answer all of your questions and guide you through the process of drafting these legal documents that help protect your best interests. It’s important to note that estate planning is not just a matter of your finances. It also involves your medical care.
The ability to name someone else who will be responsible for making decisions related to your healthcare comes under the durable power of attorney for healthcare. The person you choose becomes your agent and they must follow instructions you’ve outlined in the document regarding prolonging managed care or taking you off of life support. This is an important document to have in place should you know exactly how you wish to be cared for in the event of incapacitation.
Should you become incapacitated and do not have a durable power of attorney for healthcare active, the following people, in order, can make decisions regarding your care:
- Your court-appointed guardian or conservator
- Your spouse or domestic partner
- Your adult child
- Your adult sibling
- A close friend
- Your nearest living relative
The decisions an agent you name in a durable power of attorney for healthcare can make include the following:
- Whether or not you should be admitted or discharged from a nursing home or hospital
- Which medicines or treatments you do or do not want to receive
- Who is allowed access to your medical records
Please note that the agent you name is only permitted to make these decisions when you are unable to do so for yourself. The agent must also follow the wishes you’ve outlined in the power of attorney document.
Yes, you can change the person you name as your agent. Just be sure you have an estate planning attorney draft a new durable power of attorney for healthcare with the new name listed. Once the new document has been created you should destroy the old one. Be sure to inform the previous agent that they are no longer serving in the capacity.
Some states allow you to create an emergency advance directive on the spot should you not have a durable power of attorney for healthcare (also referred to as an advance directive) in place. You can create an emergency advance directive if you’ve suffered an emergency by speaking with a doctor and having someone else witness the conversation. You must still be of sound mind when having this conversation in order for the emergency advance directive to be valid.
It is important that you include a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release when creating your estate plan. A provision of HIPAA prevents doctors from sharing medical information with anyone other than the patient. For this reason alone you should include a HIPAA release in the estate plan. A release will grant your agent and anyone else who you name the ability to discuss your situation with the doctor treating you.
It’s never too late to create an estate plan, unless you or your loved one has become incapacitated. If you are still of sound mind, it is in your best interest to create an estate plan that outlines all of your wishes. The plan should include durable power of attorney for healthcare as well as other emergency documents. Call the office of Power Law Firm LLP at (800) 281-1515 to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.