Every estate plan in Florida should include a set of advance health care directives.
A few days ago, I wrote an article providing the 3 most important legal and financial actions to take right now in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. One such action is preparing your advance health care directives.
The documents that make up advance health care directives generally include: a living will; health care power of attorney (known in Florida as a “designation of health care surrogate”); health/medical information release forms (HIPAA authorization forms); and a uniform organ donation form. Together, these documents allow a person to plan ahead for their own health care in the event they cannot make their own decisions for whatever reason.
Here’s what to make sure is included in your advance health care directives:
- Do your Health Care Directives name the people you would want to act on your behalf?
Yes, “PEOPLE”, not “person.” You should absolutely have at least one, if not two, people named after your primary first choice decision-maker.
- Do your Health Care Directives list their current, up to date cell phone number?
You want to make sure they can be reached, if needed.
- Is everyone you named also listed on a HIPAA Release.
If someone you have named wants to talk to your doctor, you want the information to flow freely, unimpaired by legal restraint.
- Does your Living Will provide that you should not be intubated or put on a ventilator?
Many standard Living Will forms include absolute prohibition of intubation. Intubation may be necessary to treat coronavirus through a ventilator because it is a lower respiratory tract infection. If your Living Will provides for no intubation, add in this language:
“Despite anything to the contrary in this document, if necessary due to Coronavirus or any other respiratory infection, I DO want intubation, ventilation, and all other life-saving measures.”
Please note that those life-saving measures could include medications that you would not normally take, so consider whether you want to include any sort of a limitation on certain drugs, even if it could put your life at risk.
- Does your Designation of Health Care Surrogate allow authorization to account for lockdowns and self-quarantines?
Typically, your health care agent would have authorization in hand and present the form to medical professionals.
Given current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions due to lockdowns and recommendations for self-quarantine that may not be possible, consider updating your Designation of Health Care Surrogate as follows:
“I expressly authorize my Agent to communicate decisions to any medical provider verbally, in person, by telephone, via email, via web conference including but not limited such services as Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or in any other manner appropriate to the circumstances. Further, I expressly hold harmless any medical provider for relying on such communications of decisions and directions by my Agent. The express purpose of this provision is to foster decision making by my Agent in remote or indirect manners that may be necessary or advisable given whatever circumstances accompany such decision making.”
As with any legal documents, it is best to consult with an experience lawyer rather than going it alone.
All of my estate planning packages include, at no extra charge, a set of advance health care directives. I also offer a standalone set of advance health care directives for those individuals that don’t want a comprehensive estate planning package. In addition to the general health care documents listed above, my advance health care directives include an authorization and direction for disposition of remains, which allows you to provide directions for either a burial or cremation.
If you have any questions about advance health care directives or about any other estate planning tools, please contact me today. If you want to create your own advance health care directives with my easy-to-use virtual estate planning form builder, you can do that, too (p.s., I still draft your documents, not an automated non-lawyer).