Let’s start at the beginning. When you mention estate planning to someone, there are a lot of things that usually cross their mind. From, I don’t need an estate plan because I’m not rich to, I told my kids what I want and I am sure they will do the right thing. But the first thought that most people have will be estate planning means a will or a trust.
A will and/or trust is just the starting point of any decent estate plan. There are many other factors and documents that go into preparing an estate plan for you, but one thing is for sure, if you do not have Advance Directives, then you have not properly done estate planning. An advance directive is a legal document that allows you to appoint a fiduciary to make decisions for you while you are still alive. There are different types of advance directives, such as Powers of Attorney. The focus of this blog, however, will be on those advance directives that allow you to express your values and desires related to healthcare.
We are in unprecedented times right now. According to a March 30, 2020 Time Magazine article, “[t]here is perhaps nothing that exemplifies the sheer magnitude of deaths due to COVID-19 than public health officials’ decision last week to turn a Madrid ice rink into a morgue” due to funeral parlors unwillingness to collect bodies of individuals who died from the virus. The article goes on to describe how Italy has prohibited funerals completely and in the United States, hospitals are banning visitors. As cases of the coronavirus continue to climb, Time Magazine says that “many Americans will die and die alone.”
Did I bring up that article just to scare you? Yes and No. While many Americans are being affected by the coronavirus, there are many more that are affected by the same ailments that they had prior to the pandemic. With hospitals being overwhelmed, if you become incapacitated in any way, and need to be brought to a hospital or urgent care, is there someone already appointed who knows how you want to be treated, and more importantly, has the authority to dictate treatment.
There are three documents that are prepared as part of an estate plan that could alleviate the worry that I presented above. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate, the Living Will, and a HIPPA Authorization.
The Designation of Health Care Surrogate enables you to nominate an individual (the surrogate) to make decisions related to health care if you become incapacitated. The Living Will details the medical measures a person does or does not want taken in a variety of potential circumstances. They enable you to make decisions about end-of-life care and treatment. The Healthcare Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”) Authorization grants consent to have their health information used or disclosed to individuals listed on the consent form.
Estate Planning is best accomplished by taking preventative measures, that is, people should engage in this planning before the problems start presenting themselves, if possible. These advance directives for health care work to ensure that your health care wishes are followed if you cannot enforce those decisions yourself, due to a disability or other circumstance. In normal times, these documents provide a great deal of protection, but more so today. If you would like to schedule a consultation to learn more about Estate Planning and how it may benefit you and your family, Rosenthal Meyer, PLLC is holding its consultations using video chat functions and would be happy to assist you. Please reach out to us with questions at (407) 504-9725, firstname.lastname@example.org, or at www.rosenthalmeyer.com.