When discussing estate planning, most people think of wills, trusts, and asset distribution. Yet, an often-ignored but crucial aspect is planning for incapacity with health care directives. In this blog, we’ll explore why including a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care, and a HIPAA release in your estate plan is essential for a comprehensive approach.
A living will is a legally binding document that outlines your preferences regarding life-support treatments. If you are ever in a medical situation where you can’t express your wishes, this document provides a roadmap for your loved ones and health care providers.
Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
Also known as a health care proxy, this directive allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. The document comes into play when you are unable to make your own choices but aren’t necessarily at the end of your life.
While durable powers of attorney for health care give someone the right to make medical decisions for you, they don’t necessarily provide access to your medical records. That’s where a HIPAA release comes in.
The Power of Information
HIPAA laws are stringent about patient privacy, limiting who can view your medical records. Having a HIPAA release in place alongside your health care proxy ensures your appointed agent can access all the information they need to make educated decisions about your care.
Completing the Picture
Think of your durable power of attorney for health care as a car and the HIPAA release as the key. The car is pretty much useless without the key, just as your health care agent’s ability to make informed decisions is limited without access to your medical history.
Why You Need Both Directives
A comprehensive plan will include both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. Together, these documents cover a broad range of scenarios, ensuring that you have the final say in your health care treatment, even if you can’t speak for yourself.
The Emotional Benefit
Family conflicts over health care decisions can be traumatic. By clearly outlining your wishes and appointing someone to enforce them, you can prevent heartbreaking and potentially divisive arguments among your loved ones.
Though you may assume your closest family members will naturally take the lead in medical decision-making, it’s not guaranteed. Legal ambiguities can lead to unexpected outcomes. Explicitly naming your agents in a durable power of attorney for health care eliminates this uncertainty.
Health care directives and a HIPAA release are as essential as wills and trusts in estate planning. They give you a voice in your medical treatment when you might not be able to speak, provide peace of mind to your family, and can even influence your long-term financial planning.
A complete estate plan empowers you in all areas of life and death, so don’t neglect these vital components.
Put a Plan in Place Today!
If you are currently unprepared for your twilight years, now is the time for action. When you have a well-rounded estate plan in place that includes an incapacity planning component, you can go forward with peace of mind.
Your own wishes will be honored if you become unable to communicate late in your life, and that is a huge part of the equation. In addition, your legacy will be passed along appropriately if you take the right steps to make it happen in an ideal manner.
There are different approaches that can be taken when it comes to the facilitation of asset transfers. The ideal way to proceed will depend on the circumstances, and this is why legal counsel is invaluable.
If you’re ready to get started, you can call us at 310-677-9787 to schedule a consultation appointment at our Los Angeles estate planning office, and you can use our contact form to send us a message.