Estate Planning Essentials: What is Healthcare Planning?
Do you have a healthcare plan? In the second video in our Estate Planning Essentials series, attorney Nic Grimwood explains the importance of properly designating someone to act on your behalf if you can't take care of yourself or your children.
Healthcare planning is a subset of estate planning. Estate planning is a broader planning concept addressing both death and incapacity.
Healthcare planning is intended just to address what happens to you in the event of a medical emergency or ongoing medical condition. Healthcare planning is important in two different scenarios: (1) if you become incapacitated (meaning if you are in a coma or are diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's); and (2) if you become unavailable (meaning a situation like being quarantined).
Healthcare planning allows you to opt out of medical treatments that you do not want, it allows you to designate someone you trust to make medical decisions for you, and it ensures that someone can pay your medical bills and communicate with third parties (such as your healthcare provider or insurer) on your behalf.
Healthcare planning is uniquely important because you are the direct beneficiary. It allows you to take control of the future of your healthcare right now. It also important because it benefits those you love by eliminating uncertainty and confusion. Further, it can help your family avoid ongoing legal fees if it becomes necessary to obtain a guardianship or conservatorship over you if your medical condition carries on for a while.
There are three primary tools that are used in healthcare planning. The first is called a living will (also known as an advance directive). This document allows you to make certain end-of-life treatment decisions (such as whether or not you want artificial, life-sustaining treatments like a feeding tube or ventilator).
The second healthcare planning tool is a healthcare power of attorney. This document allows you to designate someone (called your "agent") to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can't. Once a physician has determined that you're unable to make decisions for yourself, your agent would be able to make ongoing decisions for you until you regain capacity.
Finally, the third tool is a general durable power of attorney. While it's not traditionally a document that is associated with healthcare planning, it's highly beneficial because it allows for certain ancillary needs to be met. These needs would include allowing your agent to access a bank account to pay your bill, or allowing your agent to operate a business. The goal is to enable your agent to carry on your affairs while you're unavailable.
These three documents, working together, help create a clearly defined plan for your loved ones to follow in the event that you become either incapacitated or unavailable due to a medical condition. If you have any questions about healthcare planning or estate planning in general, we encourage you to reach out to our office.
We would love to help you create the healthcare plan that both you and your family deserve.
Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements.