Editor's Note: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, PFS, AEP, JD, is an attorney in private practice focusing on estate and tax planning and estate administration. He is the author of 42 books and has authored 1,200 articles on these topics.
This is Part II of a three-part blog series. Part I featured a list of key legal documents that every adult should have in place, and should review to ensure they meet current needs. In this post, I share some additional health care-related planning documents that every adult should have in place, and the next steps you should take once your planning documents are together.
Along with managing legal documents related to your finances and estate planning, it’s important to review and update documents that express your health care wishes. These documents can include:
Living Will — This is a document in which you express health care wishes. These may include desires for medical treatment under different circumstances, end-of-life wishes, or option to donate organ and tissue to medical research. Be certain that you have a document in place and that the wishes set forth are what you want to communicate.
One of the considerations that may require special attention is whether your documents expressly prohibit intubation. For some people who contract COVID-19, intubation may be necessary to survive. You can distinguish the need for intubation in this circumstance from others if you opt out of them (e.g., persistent vegetative state or terminal illness).
Health Care Proxy and HIPAA Release — Healthcare proxy designates an agent to make medical decisions to assist you if you are unable to act for yourself. Be certain that you have a signed document and that the named agents are able and willing to assist. If, for example, you named a family member who lives a thousand miles away, it may be preferable to have somebody closer in light of current circumstances.
Typically, when agents make medical decisions, they are in the hospital speaking to care providers. They may also need to sign documents. But as a result of COVID-19, agents are unlikely to have access to the hospital and care providers in-person. Consider expressly authorizing electronic communication of decisions as discussed above under powers of attorney.
A HIPAA release authorizes a named agent to access your private health information can communicate with medical providers, but not make medical decisions for you. The considerations for this document are similar to those for your health care proxy.
Having a Power of Attorney, Will and Revocable Trust, Living Will, Health Care Proxy and HIPAA Release are key tools in help you manage legal, financial and health care wishes. While the ideal approach is to hire an attorney, online resources may be an option for those who cannot afford that cost.
If you have these existing documents, review them and confirm that they are adequate to get you through the current time. Given the current need for social isolation, and in particular for those with underlying health conditions such as PD, you may want to defer additional changes to a later date if the documents suffice.
Not sure if what you have suffices? Some advisors may be willing to discuss the status of your current documents as a courtesy to help you determine whether or not immediate changes are necessary.
In Part III of this blog series, I highlight additional planning measures that can help you through difficult times.
For more information on how to make your will, download our free, comprehensive guide.
The information provided is intended and provided solely for informational and educational purposes. None of the information is intended to be, nor should they be construed to be the basis of any investment, legal, tax or other professional advice. Under no circumstances should these materials be considered to be, or used as independent legal, tax, investment or other professional advice. The information is general in nature and not person specific. Laws vary by state and are subject to constant change.