For the most part, most of your comprehensive estate planning is aimed at making sure other people are taken care of after your death. However, providing for others is not the only goal of estate planning in today’s world. As we begin to live longer lives, we must also take our own potential needs into consideration when designing an estate plan. Recently, Forbes ran an article that pointed out many people make a huge mistake when engaging in estate planning: they forget to plan for their own well-being. In other words, an important part of your estate plan is making sure you put mechanisms in place to address scenarios where you may become seriously ill or disabled, or for circumstances where you may require long-term care. The following important documents should be part of everyone’s estate plan.
Advanced Health Care Directive
An advanced health care directive allows you to nominate an individual that can make decisions about your healthcare should you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions on your own. The amount of leeway given to this nominee depends on how you structure the directive, which means that you can make it as narrow or as broad as you would like. These work in tandem with living wills, which can be used to explain the type of medical treatment you do and do not want to receive in certain circumstances. Together, these forms can help spare family members and other loved ones from making difficult decisions that may be contrary to your wishes because they enable you to clearly convey your views on medical care.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is an underestimated but extremely powerful tool. These forms allow you to nominate a person that will be able to make important financial and other legal decisions for you in case you become incapacitated or are otherwise unable to do so. This is a useful tool in temporary and more permanent situations. For instance, if you are seriously injured, a durable power of attorney will allow someone you trust and nominate to have access to important financial resources like your bank account in order to make sure that bills are other obligations are met during your recovery. They will also allow such nominees to seek benefits and take other actions that are in your financial best interest. Closer to the end of life, these functions are also important because falling behind in financial or other legal obligations could have a significant negative impact on your ability to pass as many of your assets as possible to your heirs.
HIPAA Release and Organ Donation
While you may execute an advanced health care directive and living will, that does not necessarily mean you have allowed the nominee you have chosen to ensure compliance with your wishes access to your medical records. Access to your medical records is a crucial part of making sure that your chosen nominee can make the most informed decisions about your health care, so ensuring that they have been granted access is extremely important. A HIPAA release form can grant this type of access. Additionally, if you want to be an organ donor then you should make sure to fill out organ donation authorization forms even if you have signed up to be one through election on your state identification card. Doing so will ensure that you are able to provide lifesaving organs to individuals in need, and without these forms a hospital may be reluctant to qualify your organ donation.