by Estate Planning Attorney Nydia Menendez
When we start thinking of Estate Planning, we consider documents such as Wills, Trusts and Powers of Attorney. However, people frequently overlook a set of documents which, in my opinion, are the most critical in an Estate Plan: the Advance Health Care Directives. And because they are so important, we deemed it fit to prepare this article.
Why are Advance Health Care Directives Important?
The Advance Health Care Directives include three main documents: the Living Will, the Designation of a Health Care Surrogate, and the HIPAA Waiver. The reason Advance Health Care Directives are so vital is because they are all about life-or-death decisions. Most clients who come to our office will not even mention these issues, much less the documents.
In the Advance Health Care Directives, you declare what your decisions would be regarding medical care or treatment you would want to accept, reject, or discontinue. By having these documents in place, you can ensure that even if you unable to voice your wishes yourself, you can still state what they would be. That is why they are referred to as “Advance” Health Care Directives – you are declaring the decisions in “advance.”
You also name the person or persons, in order of preference, who will step in to physically voice your decisions. We always recommend naming at least three people, just in case the first person is unable, unwilling or not available.
In this document you can set forth your preferences regarding life-prolonging medical treatments or procedures if you are in a terminal condition, a persistent vegetative state, or an end-stage condition. It is called a “Living Will” because it takes effect while you are still living.
Designation of A Health Care Surrogate
In this document you appoint another person to make medical decisions for you in the event you become temporarily or permanently unable to make those for yourself.
You can appoint any adult. It does not have to be a family member. This is important for non-traditional families and households. The law assumes that family members, in a set order, are the most appropriate persons to be the voice for the voiceless. But that is not always be the case, and it may not be the case for you!
Whomever you choose, it is important that they understand your wishes, values, and religious beliefs regarding these topics, including what’s contained in your Living Will. And they must agree to follow your instructions strictly, exactly as you have them in your documents.
The HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Waiver is the set of documents where you list the persons you would want to have medical information about you, in addition to the person or persons named as your surrogates.
Although these documents have no impact on your assets, it is extremely important to have them in place. They will ensure you always have a voice, and it will guide your loved ones through a difficult process.
Where to Get Started?
If you want to learn more about how to plan for your future to make sure you have a voice in these important medical decisions, we invite you to call our office at (954) 963-7220 to speak with a member of the Menéndez Law Firm. You may also want to watch the video series on our YouTube channel where we talk about Estate Planning in detail. Or if you want to join us for the next live Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning webinar on Zoom you can register at no charge on our website www.menendezlawfirm.com
Estate Planning Attorney
Menéndez Law Firm
2699 Stirling Road, Suite B200
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
Tel.: (954) 963-7220
Fax: (954) 963-7232