I think most people probably realize the importance of having some kind of healthcare directive. Highly publicized cases, such as Terri Schaivo’s, have brought the issue into sharp focus over the last several years. What we don’t always remember is that these are documents that need to be revisited and updated, just as the financial component of an estate plan does.
Recently, I spoke with a client - who I’ll call Will - about updating healthcare documents. The catalyst for his phone call was a near-death experience. Will has been divorced for about two years. His current partner has been in his life for most of that time. Will suffered a massive heart attack in February. His partner was at work when this occurred, and was contacted by the friend that called the ambulance for Will.
Upon her frantic arrival to the hospital, Will’s partner was almost completely stonewalled; Will’s former wife was still listed on all healthcare documents that the hospital had on file. Because of his failure to update documents, the person who Will wanted most at his side was unable to be there. None of us like to think about being in a state so vulnerable that we’re unable to communicate our desires. However, part of a complete plan is evaluating those types of ‘what if’ situations.
Will’s documents have been updated and are now an accurate reflection of what he’d like to have happen in dire circumstances, and who he’d like by his side and to make decisions on his behalf if necessary. This is only one example of why you need to review your Healthcare Power of Attorney, Mental Healthcare Power of Attorney, and HIPPA documents should be part of an annual review.
Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus
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