When most folks think about estate planning, they picture a huge house on lots of land. There are multiple bank accounts, investment accounts, and a really nice swimming pool. The hot cars line the drive and someone named James answers the door.
This picture, although lovely, has little to do with estate planning. Estate planning isn’t just about the money. One of the most important parts of estate planning is the health care documents.
After all, if you are dying in the hospital, it doesn’t matter if you have a pool and a butler named James or not. If you don’t want to be hooked up to life support machines like Terri Schiavo for fifteen years, you need health care documents.
A living will gives instruction to medical personnel regarding your end of life medical treatment. If you choose to have a living will, you say in advance, “I don’t want medical heroics. I don’t want machines if I am at the very end of life and I am in an irreversible coma or permanent vegetative state.”
Within a living will, you are making health care decisions in advance. Hence, a living will is called an “advanced health care directive.”
You also need a health care power of attorney wherein you appoint an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. A health care agent can NOT override your living will.
You also absolutely need a HIPAA release which honors federal privacy laws. The HIPAA release permits your health care agent to access your medical records and communicate with medical personnel.
The organ donation authorization should also be considered when executing health care documents. By donating organs when you no longer need them, you can save up to 8 lives and make many more lives more comfortable.
Everyone needs health care documents. Consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.