The acronym HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. In this post, we explain why this piece of legislation is something to consider as part of your estate plan.
Advance Directives for Health Care
Everyone is well aware of the fact that an estate plan facilitates final distribution of your assets. However, a proper estate plan also addresses eventualities you may face toward the end of your life.
While difficult to think about, people usually do not pass away without experiencing a period of incapacity. Incapacity may be either cognitive or physical, and people on strong medication may be unable to communicate sound decisions.
To account for these possibilities, your estate plan should include documents called advance directives for health care.
One type of advance directive is the living will. A living will states your wishes with regard to the use of feeding tubes, artificial hydration, resuscitation, and mechanical ventilation. You may address each of these different forms of life support in a living will. You may also make choices about comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation.
Another critical health care document is a durable power of attorney for health care. This document addresses medical matters outside the living will. This document names someone to act on your behalf if you become disabled, incapacitated, or unable to communicate your own decisions.
Now that you generally understand incapacity planning, we can look at the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This measure prohibits medical professionals from sharing information with anyone other than the patient.
Obviously, your health care agent cannot do his/her job without access to this crucial information. Your incapacity plan should include a HIPAA release to give doctors the ability to communicate freely with your agent.
Also note that HIPAA protections extend to all adults, even people that just turned 18. As a result, if you have an 18-year-old child without a HIPAA release, doctors cannot discuss your child’s medical condition with you.
For this reason, if you are a parent, you should explain the situation to your young adult child so they can sign one of these forms. They can also make you the agent under a durable power of attorney for health care.
Financial Decision Making
Your incapacity plan should also address the financial part of the equation. If you have a living trust, you act as trustee while you are alive. To account for possible incapacity, you may name a successor trustee to act in the event of your disability or incapacity.
For property that is not held in the trust, you should execute a durable power of attorney for property. You can use the same person to act as the agent for both powers of attorney, but this is not a requirement. Some people are more effective at handling financial matters. Others are better and perhaps more experienced in health care matters.
Attend a Free Workshop
We are conducting a number of workshops over the coming weeks, and we will break down the process into simple, easily understandable terms. There is no charge to attend these sessions, but we ask that you register in advance so we can reserve your seat.
To see the schedule and obtain registration information, head over to our workshop page. When you identify the session that you would like to attend, follow the simple instructions to register.
Need Help Now?
If you have learned enough to know that it is time for you to put an estate plan in place, our doors are open. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 405-843-6100 in the Oklahoma City, Oklahoma area, or 913-385-9400 in the Overland Park, Kansas area.