Estate planning runs from doing nothing at all to the elaborate and complex. But, regardless of what type of estate plan you have, there are three legal documents every adult should have. If you are over 18, you should have a Health Care Directive, a HIPAA Release and a Durable Power of Attorney.
Should you ever be hospitalized and are unable to communicate a health care directive allows someone else to speak for you. In a Health Care Directive you to name a person or persons to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself and it allows you to provide instructions on how those decisions should be made. It also gives your health care agent (the person named in the Health Care Directive) authority under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to access your medical records. If you are a parent with a college age child, you will want to get this in place for your child – if you aren’t designated as your child’s agent under HIPAA then the school’s health care department cannot talk to you about your child’s illness.
By federal law, your medical and other health information is private and your medical providers are not allowed to disclose that information without your written consent. This means that your doctor and other healthcare professionals will not share your medical information with your care givers (even if they are close family members) unless you have signed a HIPAA Release form. By including a signed HIPAA Release with your Health Care Directive, you are giving your care givers the ability to access the information they will need to make informed decisions about your care.
A Durable Power of Attorney is to your financial and legal matters as the Health Care Directive is to your health care. It allows you to name the person or persons able to make financial and legal decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Again, parents take note – if you have children going off to college being named in a Durable Power of Attorney as your child’s representative will allow you to take over paying the bills, accessing bank accounts, and making legal decisions if your child is in an accident and is unable to do these things for themselves.
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