Many people assume that estate planning is a purely financial endeavor. You state your wishes with regard to how you want your assets to be transferred through the terms of a will or trust, and that’s the end of the story.
This is actually an incomplete understanding. Yes, the facilitation of asset transfers will be at the core of the process, but you should also address eventualities that you may face at the end of your life. Admittedly, no one is especially anxious to consider these possibilities, but pragmatism should prevail.
Life Support Preferences
Many people will become unable to communicate when the end is near, and there are life-support decisions that may present themselves. If you do nothing, the burden will fall on your family.
In addition to the fact that you should assert your wishes for your own benefit, you can prevent potential disagreements if you record your life-support preferences in advance. This is done through the execution of a legal document called a living will.
You can decide whether or not you want physicians to implement life-sustaining measures like artificial nutrition and hydration, resuscitation, and assisted respiration. A living will can also be used to state comfort care preferences that would apply to the utilization of certain drugs.
One of the elegant things about the cycle of life and death in our modern era is the ability for people that are dying to donate organs to keep others alive. If you would like to be a donor, you can state this willingness in your living will, and you can specify certain organs if you choose to do so.
Health Care Representative
There are situations that can arise that are not specifically covered in the living will. To account for this, you can name someone to act as your agent under these circumstances. This is done through the execution of a durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy.
It should be noted that the agent would not be given access to your medical information unless you include a HIPAA authorization. This acronym stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and it prevents medical professionals from releasing data to anyone other than the patient.
We often emphasize the importance of planning for adults of all ages, and many people do not take these suggestions seriously, because they think that it is only a priority for senior citizens. This is really not the case, and we will cover all of the different reasons why in a different blog post.
However, since we are on the subject of advance health care directives, it is worthwhile to explain one aspect of the equation through the utilization of a simple example. Let’s say that you have a daughter that is 21 years old, and she is pursuing an acting career in New York City.
You get a text from her friend saying that she has been rushed to the hospital because she has been involved in a very serious automobile accident. She is unable to communicate to the doctors, and when you call the hospital, they tell you that they cannot share any information with you.
They would be required to adhere to HIPAA regulations under these circumstances, because she would be a legal adult in the eyes of the law. Everyone knows that a 21-year-old person is an adult, but when you do not think about the estate/incapacity planning ramifications, there can be negative consequences.
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If you would like to speak with us about advance directives for health care or any other estate planning or elder law matter, we would be more than glad to help.
You can request a consultation at our Vermont office if you give us a call at 802-879-7133. The number in Albany, New York is 518-389-6020, and you can send a message to either location through our contact page.