Healthy adults often make the mistake of thinking they do not need a health care directive. However, the pandemic has made clear everyone needs this estate planning document, at any time of life, according to a recent article “Health care directive beneficial for anyone” from The Times-Tribune.
Anytime a person becomes severely incapacitated, even if just for a short time, and any time a young person becomes a legal adult, a health care directive is needed. In other words, everyone over the age of 18 needs to have a health care directive.
Several health care directives are prepared by an estate planning attorney as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
A Living Will or Advance Directive is used to express wishes for medical treatments, if you are not able to express them yourself.
A Power of Attorney for Health Care (also known as a Durable POA for Health Care or a Health Care Proxy) lets you name a trusted person who will make health care decisions on your behalf, if you cannot make the decisions or communicate your wishes.
A HIPAA Privacy Authorization makes it possible for health care providers to share medical information with a person of your choice. Otherwise, the health care providers are not permitted to discuss your medical history, medical status, diagnostic reports, lab results, etc., with family members.
Short term incapacity can result from illness or recovery from surgery or intense medical treatments. Having these documents in place permits a person you trust to have important conversations with your health care providers and to make decisions on your behalf.
Physicians will be permitted to discuss medical care with a named agent, who, in turn, will be able to discuss care or status with family members.
This documentation will also allow an authorized person to help you with insurance companies, billing departments at hospitals, pharmacies and to schedule medical appointments on your behalf.
If you are not married, this is especially important. Even a partner of many years has no legal right to act on your behalf.
For parents of young adults, having these documents in place will allow them to stay involved in an adult child’s healthcare. It is not a scenario that any parent wants to contemplate, but having these documents prepared in advance can save a great deal of stress and anguish, if and when they are needed.
Reference: The Times-Tribune (Aug. 15, 2021) “Health care directive beneficial for anyone”