Health Care Declaration and Durable Power of Attorney For Healthcare: Who Needs Them? The answer is everyone. Healthcare directives are not just for older adults. Unexpected medical crises and end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults (age 18 and older) to have documents in place.
When preparing estate planning documents, we always recommend that every client have a health care declaration and medical durable power of attorney, and also a HIPAA release authorization. Below are the explanations and specific considerations for each.
This written, legal document identifies the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing, tube feeding, or resuscitation.
Medical or Healthcare Power of Attorney
The medical power of attorney is a legal document that designates an individual, referred to as your healthcare agent, to make medical decisions for you in the event that you’re unable to do so. If you are at least 18, no one has the right to make medical decisions for you, even a spouse or other family member, unless you have designated someone to make those decisions in a written document.
Since a health care declaration can’t cover every possible situation, it is important to designate a healthcare agent in a medical power of attorney document. This person will be guided by your health care declaration but has the authority to interpret your wishes in situations that aren’t described in the declaration.
HIPAA Release Authorization
If you are at least 18 years old, no one has the right to obtain medical information about you if you are hospitalized or in need of medical care. This document allows you to name family members to be able to talk with medical personnel to find out about your medical situation.
If you have an 18 year old, unmarried child, then without the medical durable power of attorney and the HIPAA release authorization, you have zero legal authority to know anything about your child medically, or to make any kind of medical care decision for him or her. For this reason, we believe that it is imperative that parents talk with their adult, unmarried children about completing a healthcare directive, medical power of attorney, and a HIPAA release authorization.
It is important to inform family members, healthcare agents, and your healthcare providers that you have a health care declaration, medical power of attorney, and HIPAA release authorization, and to provide copies to them. It’s a good idea to review and update your directives as your needs change. The estate planning attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal, P.C. are able to assist you in this process.