Decisions about your health care are some of the most important you will ever make.
Unfortunately, too many people put off making health care plans, often until they are no longer able to assert their wishes. At that point, it becomes too late and they have forfeited their right to make their own health care choices.
Including health care documents in your estate plan can ensure your decisions are always your choice, even if you cannot speak for yourself. Health care documents that clearly state your wishes should be included in your comprehensive estate plan. Here are three documents you need to include in your estate plan to ensure your wishes are respected:
Health Care Directive
This document allows you to name a health care agent. This will be the individual who you grant the authority to make certain decisions on your behalf. A health care agent may also be called a health care surrogate or a personal representative.
In your directive, you can include specific instructions on the health care measures you desire if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. These are life and death decisions; make sure your agent is someone you trust. Work closely with a trusted estate planning lawyer to ensure your directive provides clear guidelines for your agent to follow.
Your health care agent or personal representative will need access to your medical records to make educated decisions about your care. To do this, your agent will need a HIPAA authorization. This will ensure he or she has access to your medical records from HIPAA-covered health care providers.
Living Will Declaration
A living will provides specific guidelines for your end of life care. While your health care directive can include provisions for your agent to make certain decisions about your ongoing health care, a living will tells your agent how you would like those decisions made, such as if and when you want life support to be removed, whether you would want hydration and nutrition and what kind of care choices should be made for you, if you cannot make them for yourself. These types of absolute decisions about your life should be included in a living will for extra protection and assurance your desires will be known and honored.
These documents, if carefully crafted, will help you express and enforce your healthcare wishes, even if you cannot speak for yourself. If you want to ensure your preferences for your ongoing and end of life care are respected, these are the documents you need to have in place.
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