Estate Planning and Healthcare

When it comes to healthcare issues to address in conjunction with your estate planning, there are generally three principal documents that need to be considered. While everyone needs these three basic documents, the people with the greatest need for them are the elderly and young adults. As you get older, the risk of impairment or disability that could result in your not being able to make your own healthcare decisions significantly increases. A child is technically an adult at age 18, but parents still may need or want to be involved in his or her healthcare. Without the appropriate documents, parents no longer have the legal authority to make their son or daughter’s healthcare decisions.

Healthcare Surrogate Designation

A Healthcare Surrogate Designation (also known as a Medical Power of Attorney) gives you the ability to name a trusted family member or friend to make medical decisions for you, if you cannot speak or communicate your own wishes.  The decisions controlled by this document can include, among other things, which type of healthcare treatment you should receive, the location of that treatment and who will deliver such treatment.

HIPAA Authorization

While a healthcare surrogate designation appoints a person to make your healthcare decisions, a HIPAA Authorization grants access to your healthcare information.  Healthcare surrogates are not given access to healthcare information unless they also are authorized pursuant to a HIPAA authorization. Conversely, a HIPAA Authorization does not grant any decisional authority, but simply grants access to information. As a general rule, you’ll name the same individuals for your HIPAA authorization as in your healthcare surrogate designation.

Living Will Declaration

The Living Will Declaration, like the Healthcare Surrogate Designation, is a document specific to each state’s law, giving specific guidelines on end-of-life decisions. With a Living Will Declaration you make your wishes known as to the removal of artificial nutrition, hydration and respiration.  You can certainly say you do not want life support removed under any circumstances, or that you wish to have life support removed when it is certain that your situation is irreversible and that there is little chance you will retain a certain quality of life.

In some states, the Living Will Declaration is combined with a Healthcare Surrogate Designation.  The documents created with NetLaw are specific to each state’s laws and will reflect the format recognized by each state.