The designation of health care surrogate, the living will and the HIPAA release are three estate planning documents that are important not to control the distribution of property after you die, but to ensure that appropriate medical decisions are made at the end of your life, especially if you become mentally incapacitated or unable to commuicate and thus are unable to make these decisions on your own. Following is a description of these three documents and how they work.
The Designation of Health Care Surrogate
The designation of health care surrogate allows you to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event that you become mentally incapacitated or unable to communicate. Select your surrogate with care, because some of these decisions could mean life or death for you.
You are not required to select one of your children or any other family member, although most people do. Select someone who is likely to be there when you need them, and who will make decisions in your best interest rather than their own. Remember, your surrogate’s authority doesn’t begin until you become incapacitated, and his authority ends the moment you regain capacity. Your surrogate will NOT have the authority to place you in a nursing home.
The Living Will
A living will is not at all the same as a last will and testament. In a living will, you act as your own health care surrogate with respect to end of life decisions, at least to the extent that you are able to express your wishes concerning future medical treatment now, while you are still able to do so. A living will is not a “Do Not Resuscitate” order, but it does allow you to express what type of care you will receive if the doctors cannot bring you back to full competence.
A living will may specify, for example, that you do not want to be “kept alive on a machine” (although the actual text of the document would need to be more specific than this). You might request that doctors refrain from administering life-prolonging treatment under certain circumstances and focus instead on palliative (pain reduction) care.
The HIPAA Release
Your medical records are considered private information, and access to them is restricted by law. These restrictions could be problematic during an end of life scenario. In a HIPAA release, you list the names of family members and friends who you would like to have access to your medical records. Your family or friends may need this authorization in order to obtain information from the hospital, schedule doctor appointments and discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Get in Touch With Us Today
If you need to draft or amend any of the foregoing estate planning documents, or any of the other documents you will need to formulate a complete and integrated estate plan, contact estate planning attorney Jose Lorenzo by calling (305) 999-5411, completing our online intake form, emailing us at [email protected] or visiting one of our offices in Coral Gables and Ft. Lauderdale. We accept clients throughout the state of Florida.