The vast majority of Americans do not have estate plans in place, and this is even true when you are talking about people that are in their mid-30s through to the age of 60. Of course, the preparedness level is extremely low among people that are younger than 35.
You may say that there is nothing to see here; these figures are just common sense. It is true that the average life expectancy is 78 years, but significant numbers of younger people pass away every day.
If you don’t have anyone relying on you, and you have limited resources, you may think that you are not being irresponsible if you do not have a plan. This may be true, but there is more to the process of estate planning than the asset transfer element.
A lot of people become incapacitated in one way or another before they pass away. It can be in the final days, and on another level, senior citizens are often impacted by relatively long-term cognitive impairment.
For these reasons, a well-constructed estate plan will address the eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life. This is an important element that should not be overlooked.
An incapacity plan will include documents called advance directives for health care. One of them is a living will. With this type of will, you record your choices regarding the use of life-support.
You don’t necessarily have to make one sweeping statement. If you choose to do so, you can address the different life support techniques that can be utilized one by one. Your living will can also include comfort care medication preferences and organ and tissue donation choices.
Another advance directive that should be part of the plan is a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care. You name an agent in this document that would be empowered to make medical decisions on your behalf if you ever become unable to make them yourself.
These would be decisions that are not covered in the living will. The agent would not have the power to override any preferences that you record in the living will, so this should not be a source of concern.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted back in 1996. It includes a number of different reforms, and one of them is very relevant here.
Doctors are not allowed to reveal medical information to anyone other than the patient unless a release has been signed. For this reason, an incapacity plan should include a HIPAA release form.
Young Adults Are Impacted
Young adults should have incapacity planning documents in place just like anyone else, and they are actually more prone to motor vehicle accidents than older people. This being stated, there is a very serious logistic element at play that can take you by surprise.
When your child reaches the age of 18, there is the legal recognition of adulthood. It is easy to understand some of the implications, but you may overlook the health care part of the equation.
Let’s say that your 18-year-old son goes away to college. If he gets seriously injured in an accident, doctors would not be able to discuss his condition with you because of HIPAA regulations.
This is the major reason why an incapacity plan is absolutely essential as soon as your child reaches this important age threshold. If you do not take action and something happens, the outcome can be truly devastating.
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