Is Estate Planning only for the Wealthy? - Part 2 Health Care

In the first part of this series we discuss the importance of having a Will for all people, regardless of how much money you have. The next part of this series will discuss what we call health care documents, which are equally as important for everyone.

The idea with these documents is that you want to be able to control future health care situations by preparing in the present. One of these documents is a Living Will,which allows you to make decisions regarding the use artificial life support systems.

Another important document is the Health Care Power of Attorney, which allows you to appoint a person to make health care decisions, in case you become unable to make them yourself. This document should not be confused with a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Authorization that gives a person of your choice permission to access and discuss your health information with doctors, insurance companies, and the like. Notwithstanding, having a HIPAA Authorization is equally important. The Advance Health Care Directives is a set of instructions concerning what actions you would want to be taken with regard to your health care. Sometimes the Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will will be referred to as a Advance Health Care Directives, although this is not always the case.

All of these documents, in effect, help prevent your loved ones from needing to enter a court of law to make health care decisions. Most importantly, however, these documents offer you the opportunity to have future medical events handled in the way you deem appropriate.

In closing, consider this real life scenario: Think of the case of Terry Schiavo, a young woman whose story made national headlines, as a result of the battle between her parents and her husband (lasting from 1998 to 2005) to allow her to remain on artificial life support. Terry's personal decision may have been honored via a living will document she prepared in advance. This would have avoided the highly publicized battle with which we all became familiar. While this story is certainly a sad one, it is a relevant example that highlights the importance of drafting health care instructions.

Contact a Connecticut estate planning attorney if you have any questions. You can get our contact information by clicking here.