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What Health Care Documents do You Need In Your Estate Plan?

Too many people put off estate planning until it’s too late. Over half of all Americans die without any type of will or estate plan, according to the American Bar Association.

While no one enjoys contemplating what will happen after they die, estate planning is about more than that. It’s a chance for you to document what you want to happen if you become too ill or injured to speak for yourself or make your own decisions. That can happen to anyone at any age.

Even young adults should have an estate plan to address end-of-life care. Many people remember high-profile family battles fought by Terri Schiavo‘s and Bobbie Kristina Brown’s families over whether to remove them from life support.

In addition to having a will and living trust to document what will become of your assets and who will be in charge of distributing them after your death, there are estate planning documents designed to help your loved ones make decisions should you have a health crisis. These include the following:

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— Health care proxy: This is essentially a medical power of attorney that authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so.

— Advanced health care directive: This is where you designate your wishes for end-of-life care or other situations. You can, for example, designate what type of measures you want doctors to take to keep you alive if you’re in a vegetative state. This directive provides guidance to your health care proxy and medical personnel.– HIPAA release form: One of the purposes of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, enacted about two decades ago was to protect the privacy of patient information. Even those you’ve designated to make medical decisions for you can’t access your medical information without your permission. That’s what the HIPAA release form does.

The term “estate planning” seems daunting. People neglect it because they don’t see themselves as having an “estate” or decide that it’s something they will get to when they have children or reach their senior years. They assume that by telling their family members what they want to happen if they have a health crisis, that’s good enough. However, by having an estate plan that includes the documents described above, you can document your wishes and save your family additional heartache at what will already be a difficult time for them.

Source: Benzinga, “Millennials And Estate Planning: How To Get Started,” Rebecca Sheppard, Feb. 08, 2016

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