Most people think of estate planning as a way to protect financial assets. But the right estate plan can also protect your health and wellbeing in your later years.
Individuals can become incapacitated due to an illness or severe injury. This makes it difficult for them to make important decisions related to short- and long-term health care.
Estate planning lets you make your wishes known to doctors and other medical professionals so that you receive the care you want and avoid the confusion that many families can face when caring for loved ones.
Why You Need to Make Future Health Care Decisions Today
In addition to end-of-life care, ongoing treatments related to cognitive decline and loss of function may be needed to maintain a person’s quality of life.
But sometimes a person isn’t able to dictate how they’re cared for. With health care directives and other tools, you can make your wishes known to your doctors when you need it most.
Estate planning prevents the need for court orders and other legal processes that can be costly to your family. A comprehensive estate plan must include the medical care documents needed to accomplish these and other goals.
Consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney ensures that you have the resources you need to create the right estate plan for you and your family’s wellbeing.
Can a Will Direct Your Medical Care?
Wills and trusts are what most people think of when planning for the future of their assets. But wills have their limitations, and you may need to consider other ways to make your future health care wishes known.
You can use a living will to state your preferences related to the type of care you receive. Some people use living wills to make decisions related to terminal health conditions.
Stating your preferences prevents family conflicts and unwanted treatments you may choose to avoid. But when a prognosis is unclear, a living will may be limited in its ability to address health care needs.
Also, a will may not be seen by your doctor until you’ve already been treated. In some cases, doctors may try to avoid legal issues from failing to provide certain care and, instead, ignore or misinterpret the wishes outlined in a will.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney (HPOA) makes your wishes known to doctors. It can serve as a valuable supplement to your will and is an essential part of your entire estate plan.
The HPOA lets you appoint individuals who have the legal authority to make decisions related to your medical care.
Using a health care power of attorney makes it easy to address health issues that you may not be able to plan for today.
The person you name in your power of attorney can discuss treatment options with your doctors and make decisions that are aligned with your wishes. Your attorney can help you draft the HPOA you need.
The person you choose to make decisions on your behalf should be willing to carry out the wishes stated in your estate plan.
Providing Access to Medical Records
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lets you decide who should have access to your medical records.
Without a HIPAA authorization document, doctors may not disclose any information to friends or family members.
Your estate planning attorney can help you create these and other important documents that protect your wellbeing and direct doctors and family members on how you want to be treated.
HIPAA authorization and other medical care planning documents must be signed in the presence of witnesses and notarized.
Consulting with an estate planning professional helps you address these and other important aspects related to your future health care needs.
Making your wishes known to doctors gives you the peace of mind in knowing that you’ll receive the care you want and that your family members will have all of the information they need.