The intention of the foregoing is not to induce panic, but to enhance and reaffirm the need for preparedness, not just for you, but also for your loved ones.
Remember how everytime we talk about a secure real estate investment, we highly re-iterate the importance of carrying out due diligence to see that you’ve got verified and authenticated paperwork? Well now seems just a good time as any to carry out due diligence when it comes to ensuring that you have detailed and clear paperwork on ground, highlighting your assets, especially landed and real estate properties, and what goes to whom, even health related papers, in the case of an eventuality. Do not become morbid, this is just a realistic and reality check for everyone.
It is important that every adult have in place a living will, health proxy and HIPAA release/ or consent documents. Why, you might ask?
Think of Others: If you have elderly parents or other loved ones, these may be vital steps for them to take.
Tough Realities: The tragic reality is that many people might become ill and lose their lives. Having the correct documents in place may make medical decision making easier, and it could avoid tragically wrong medical decisions from being made.
Be Sure Your Documents are Current: You should make sure that you, and elderly or ill loved ones, have current legal documents: living wills, healthcare proxies, HIPAA releases, powers of attorney and wills. Documents that are old, e.g. 10 years or more, may be viewed as stale, and even though they remain legally binding, they could be more difficult to use. You should be certain that these documents reflect your current wishes.
For the sake of clarity, let’s spell our what some of these documents really mean and the implications for you:
Living will – A statement of your health care wishes. It might also address religious considerations, personal preferences and more. Mistakes in these documents could be especially problematic.
Do Not Resuscitate (“DNR”) – A document in which you specificy that you do not want heroic or resuscitative measures in the event of a cardiac or pulmonary event.
Healthcare proxy – A legal document in which you name a person, called your agent, to make health care decisions for you if you are not able to do so. The current environment is unique in history and a specific change to health care proxies and HIPAA releases (below) might be warranted.
HIPAA Releases – A legal document in which you name a person, called your agent, to communicate with your medical providers and have access to your private health information. Just as with the health care proxy document above, this is a unique time, and special modifications might be worthwhile to make to these documents.
Some financial documents that are absolutely important to have are:
Power of attorney – A legal document in which you name a person, also called your agent (but not to be confused with the agent under the health care documents above), to handle financial, tax and legal matters if you cannot do so.
Will – A legal document in which you designate guardians for your minor children and direct how assets you own will be distributed after your death. Many people use a revocable trust as their primary dispositive document.
Review Your Health Care Instructions Including Living Wills: Every adult, but especially if you are over age 60 or if you have a chronic underlying condition, should immediately review their healthcare related documents including: living will, DNR, healthcare proxy, and HIPAA release.
You should have signed current documents in place that reflect your wishes. Your health proxy and HIPAA release should list an agent who is able and willing to act. It should also list several successors. If your document is old, if you’ve moved, or if older family or friends are not well, you might need to revise the document and name new people. While these steps may be obvious to you, at this very difficult time, it is important to address these. If you have elderly parents or other loved ones, be sure they do as well.
Be certain that you have printed copies of current documents prepared to take with you if you are hospitalized.
Caution: Remember state laws differ and everyone’s situation is unique, so the preferable way to address all of this is by consulting with your attorney, whether the concern is how you will witness and notarize your new documents, if it is really necessary, if it is possible to get remote and electronic witnesses and notarization especially for wills(this sometimes presents as an issue). For this you really need a lawyer in your state to guide you.
Overall, you cannot leave the workings of your finances, investment and health to chance. Proactively take great steps to ensure that your paper work is updated and sorted in this areas, this way you set yourself and your loved ones up for security of some sort, for the most part.