In a previous post, we discussed Wills and Trusts. Today, we move on to the topics of Power of Attorney, Living Will and HIPAA releases.

Power of Attorney

Setting up a Power of Attorney (POA) is something you may want to consider in case a time comes when you are unable to make legal, financial or medical decisions on your own. A POA is a legal document that allows you (the principal) to appoint someone (the agent or attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf in the case of your illness or disability or at times when you are unable to be present. There are several types of POA that provide different levels of authority to your appointed agent, and you should be sure to understand them thoroughly before you decide which type is right for you. It is also important to choose someone you trust to put your interests above their own, such as a family member or close friend. For more information, see this article.

Living Will

A living will is something that all adults should think about, but it becomes even more important as you approach your retirement years. Unlike a regular will that goes into effect when you die, a living will applies while you are still alive. Also called an “advance directive,” a living will outlines your wishes for end-of-life medical care in the event that you are unable to communicate your wishes on your own. It’s important to create a living will now so that your family and your healthcare providers don’t have to guess at what types of treatment you would desire. This lifts a painful burden off of your loved ones and can prevent disputes among them if they have different opinions on what they think you would want. A living will is similar to a durable power of attorney (DPOA) for healthcare, and sometimes the two are combined into one document. In a DPOA, you appoint a healthcare proxy to carry out the wishes you have set up in your living will. While you may wish to seek the advice of an attorney in establishing a living will, you can also create one yourself without paying an attorney by using estate planning software such as WillMaker Plus.

HIPAA Release Form

Thanks to HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act), your medical information is kept safe and private. But there may be times when you would want to allow a family member or friend to know about your medical condition. By signing a HIPAA Release Form, you can provide permission for one or several persons to have access to your medical records and history. This is especially helpful in the case of a medical emergency. If you haven’t completed a HIPAA Release, your loved ones may not be able to get information regarding your condition or make informed decisions about your treatment. A HIPAA Release can also be used in non-emergency situations in which you simply want someone you know to be able to talk to your doctor on the phone or in-person about your healthcare. If you fill out a HIPAA Release Form, make sure it is HIPAA-compliant. Be sure to give a copy to your healthcare providers, your health insurance company, your lawyer, and anyone listed on the form who is designated to have access to your healthcare information. For more information about HIPAA Release Forms, check out this article.