There are a number of different things to think about when you are planning your estate. Yes, you have to arrange for the passing of your legacy, and there are a number of ways to go about it. The best choice will depend upon the circumstances, and this is why you should discuss your options with an estate planning attorney.
In addition to the postmortem processes, you should think about the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life. There are legal documents that should be executed to account for incapacity, and one of them is a HIPAA release.
Before we look at that particular facet, we will share some broader information about incapacity planning to provide the necessary context.
Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Incapacity
The life expectancy for a woman that is celebrating her 67th birthday today would be 87 years if there are no extenuating health circumstances. For a 67-year-old man, the life expectancy is 85 years.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 32% of people that are 85 years of age and older have contracted the disease. This is not the only cause of cognitive impairment, and there are other types of incapacity that can render someone unable to communicate sound decisions.
If you do nothing to prepare for possible incapacity and you become unable to handle your own affairs, the state could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act as your representative. There has to be some type of recourse under the circumstances, but guardianship is going to be less than ideal.
You would no longer be able to choose the person that will represent you, and family members may not be on the same page. It can also be somewhat complicated and time-consuming.
Proactive Incapacity Planning
You can prevent a guardianship if you embed an incapacity component within your broader estate plan. If you have a living trust, you would name a disability trustee in the trust declaration. This individual would be empowered to administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.
To account for property that is not in a trust, a durable power of attorney for property can be included in your estate plan. The “durable” designation is important, because this type of power of attorney would remain in effect if the grantor was to become incapacitated.
Advance Health Care Directives and HIPAA Release
In addition to the financial part of the equation, your incapacity plan should address health care matters, and this is done through the execution of advance directives for health care.
One of these directives is a living will. You use this type of will to state your preferences with regard to the use of life-sustaining measures like resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, and artificial nutrition and hydration. Comfort care medication choices and organ and tissue donation designations can also be included in the living will.
You would add a durable power of attorney for health care to name an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf that are not related to life-support. This can be the same person that you named to act as your agent for financial decision-making, but this is not required.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996. It is in place to protect patient privacy, and one of its provisions prevents doctors from sharing medical information with anyone other than the patient.
To give your agent the ability to speak freely with your physicians, you would want to name them in a HIPAA release.
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We are here to help if you are ready to put an estate plan in place, and we are offering remote consultations if you prefer to go that route. You can set up an appointment if you give us a call at 860-548-1000, and there is a contact form on this site you can use to send us a message.
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