As parents, we often ask ourselves the “what if” questions when it comes to our families. Implementing an estate plan that puts your kids front and center can help address many of those unknowns. If your current estate plan doesn’t include incapacity plans, however, then you’re only addressing part of those questions that keep you up at night. Today let’s talk about building a plan that includes what happens in a medical emergency to ensure that everyone – including yourself – gets the support they need.
Your Durable Power of Attorney is the document in which you name the individuals who will make legal and financial decisions for you in the event that you are unable to make them for yourself. The powers include everything from being able to access and use financial and digital accounts, to directing legal actions and making gifts and transactions on your behalf while you’re incapacitated.
A health care proxy (also sometimes known as a health care surrogate or durable medical power of attorney) gives named agents the ability to make medical decisions for you if you became incapacitated. Typically, this allows your agents to give permission to doctors and medical professionals on your behalf to administer new treatments or medications.
Going hand-in-hand with your Health Care Proxy is a HIPAA Waiver. Under the Health Insurance Accountability and Portability Act (a.k.a. “HIPAA”), your doctors and medical professional are prohibited from sharing your medical records with anyone besides you. Without executing a HIPAA Waiver, your health care agents won’t be able to receive medical information about you. Both of these are part of preparing for a medical emergency, along with a living will, below.
As an extension to the health care proxy and HIPAA waiver is the living will. It’s a place to give your wishes on what to do if you’re in a terminal or persistent vegetative state with no reasonable prospect of recovery. While non-binding, it provides your family guidance during this crisis.
If you were to get in an accident or get sick, who would look after your child? It’s important to make a plan to ensure that the people you know and trust are given the proper legal authority to care for your kids in a time of crisis. We can address this by appointing short term guardians in an emergency situation or with long term guardians in the event of incapacity or death of the child’s parents. While it’s unsettling to consider, preparing for all possible scenarios is critical to ensuring the wellbeing of your family and yourself.
Want to start answering these questions with an estate planner who focuses on young families? Contact us at Mulhall Withrow to schedule an initial consultation. We can help with everything from child guardianship and incapacity planning to making sure your children get the same legal documents when they turn 18.