A Crucial Part Of An Estate Plan
One of the most important pieces of a person's estate plan is the Health Care Directive. Simply put, the Health Care Directive (or HCD for short), spells out how a person wants to be cared for when they become disabled. I say when they become disabled, because people are six times more likely to become disabled than die in a given year. We will all be disabled at one point; it could be the last 20 minutes of our life or the last 20 years.
Why Is The Health Care Directive Important?
Because of the risks of disability, it is wise to have your health care wishes legally stated. This is where the Health Care Directive comes into play. The HCD will state the treatments or procedures you would like once you become disabled. Additionally, the HCD will state the treatments or procedures you would not like. In fact, stating what you would not like may be just as important.
6 Ways That The Health Care Directive Can Fail
Since it is such an important document, the HCD should be reviewed every three to five years. Just like a Will or a Trust, the HCD may need to be updated. Here is a list of six ways that Health Care Directives fail:
- Not in Doctor's Hands (Accessibility)-When the time comes for you to use your Health Care Directive, you may not be conscious. If that's the case, you will want your HCD to be in your doctor's hands when you arrive at the hospital. In fact, this is a simple step that many people do not take, which can lead to your wishes being dismissed when a new HCD is created (see #6).
- No HIPAA Authorization-An incredibly important document that should accompany your Health Care Directive is a HIPAA Authorization. HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This document authorizes other Loved Ones to receive updates on your treatment status. If you are an elderly parent, you may want your adult children to know about your health.
- Not Properly Written-A Health Care Directive that is poorly written will not get better with age! Different people want different options when it comes to deciding their healthcare choices. Usually a "template" HCD cannot offer these choices.
- Wrong Parties-The people whom you designate on your HCD should actually be the people you want to make decisions on your behalf. Surprisingly, I have seen many HCDs that spell out the wrong people (or parties).
- Old / Out of date-What happens when the person you designated as your Agent seventeen years ago has already passed away? Or what happens when your Agent has moved to California and won't be able to travel to Minnesota? An out of date HCD is a ticking time bomb.
- Revoked By Accident-Yes, this happens. In fact, it can happen quite easily. Here's how: if the doctor at the emergency room asks your spouse or child about a HCD and they are unsure, they may sign a new "template" HCD right in the emergency room lobby. Chances are, this "template" HCD may not be the same as the well thought out version you completed with your attorney while you were peaceful and sound of mind.
A Health Care Directive is an essential part of most people's estate plans. However, it must be reviewed regularly to ensure that it continues to protect you as you wish. It's a good idea to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to see what is best for you.
Bill Peterson is a Minnesota Estate Planning Attorney with over 40 years of experience as a lawyer. He can help you plan for the future by creating a Minnesota Estate Plan. For more information, please visit http://www.mnestateplan.com or call toll free at 952-641-7312.
The contents of this article are for information only and is not to be interpreted as legal advice. For personal legal advice you should consult with an attorney who is experienced in probate law or estate planning.