Whether you’re caring for a loved one who wants/needs to get his/her affairs in order or you want to make arrangements for yourself, there are a few documents everyone should have in place. Some of these forms can be completed on-line or you may wish to seek legal assistance. Consulting a lawyer who specializes in elder law is recommended if you are unsure about doing them yourself or have substantial assets and property. Here are forms we all should have in place for the future and at the end of this article are some resources that are available to help you.
Advanced Health Care Directive/Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (POA)
When it comes to healthcare, the laws are very strict about who can make decisions for another person and/or have access to someone else’s health information. The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) provided legal standards to protect a person’s health information and medical records. It is illegal for medical professionals to share any information about a person’s health/care unless there is written consent on file.
Having an Advanced Directive (living will), which will usually have the terminology to cover HIPPA requirements included, on file before there’s a healthcare emergency is absolutely necessary when you have specific wishes for the type of care you receive. In the event that you are unable to communicate, this document details what care you want and names the person who can legally make decisions on your behalf.
Note: If your Advanced Directive doesn’t have language to cover HIPPA requirements, you also need to have a separate HIPPA /Consent for Release of Information
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances (POA)
A Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs lets you designate someone to help you manage your money and property. You designate a person to be your “agent”. You can give your agent broad powers to handle your property during your lifetime or you can limit what your agent can do. This is your decision, and you can decide how you want your agent to act.
This power of attorney may be revoked by you at any time. You can revoke it in writing, by telling your agent, or by tearing it up or crossing it out or any other act that shows you want it revoked. Tell your agent that you are revoking the power of attorney. You should also tell your bank and other financial institutions.
Last Will and Testament
This document names the person responsible for settling your estate. It spells out how you wish your assets and personal property to be handled after your death. Without a will, state law will determine who makes the decisions and who gets what. A clearly written will leaves you in the driver’s seat and helps to avoid the upheaval of a family feud after your death.
Preparation is crucial
Once a healthcare emergency strikes, it is often too late to prepare the above documents. Avoid unnecessary stress and confusion by discussing the need for these documents with your loved ones ahead of time. Here are some resources to help: Vermont Law Help: www.vtlawhelp.org, Central VT Council on Aging: www.cvcoa.org.
Project Independence is an adult day health services center with activities designed to promote well-being through social and health related services in a safe, supportive, cheerful environment. For more info, call (802) 476-3630 or visit 81 North Main St., Barre, VT.