This week marks National Healthcare Decisions Day, a national movement geared towards bringing more attention to advanced planning and getting people to take action.
“It always seems too early… until it’s too late.”
The simple fact is that the majority of Americans have not done any advanced planning. They feel like they have time on their side when the simple fact is that when you truly need these documents, it is too late to prepare them.
Here is a short video from Nathan Kottkamp, a lawyer and the chairman of National Healthcare Decisions Day, that helps to explain why taking part in advanced healthcare planning is so important.
The goal of National Healthcare Decisions Day is to draw more attention to this issue and provide more information to the public about the need to engage in advanced planning for end of life issues.
What is an Advanced Planning, and What Specifically Should it Entail?
When we talk about advanced planning, we are talking about a set of legal documents that are designed to provide doctors and your loved ones with information about your health care, should you be unable to speak for yourself.
The first and primary document that should be a part of any plan is a health care power of attorney. This is a document that nominates and agent who will speak to your doctors and make medical decisions on your behalf and in accordance with your wishes.
The second document that should be included in your advanced planning is an advanced directive, also known as a living will. This is a document that will dictate your end of life wishes, such as whether you would want to remain on life support, receive artificial food or hydration, etc. You can choose to have this document override your health care agent or vice versa.
Finally, you should consider executing a HIPAA release. This is a document that gives your medical providers the legal authority to release your medical records to the people you nominate.
How Often Should You Update or Change Your Advanced Planning Documents?
We recommend that our clients revisit these documents at least annually. Around the time of National Healthcare Decisions Day is a great time to do so!
It is fairly easy to make changes if you need to, or even revoke your advanced planning documents should circumstances dictate, such as if a loved one has passed away or in the event of divorce.
These are documents that you need to share with your loved ones and provide to the hospital or your doctors when you go for an appointment or even a routine surgery. In North Carolina, you may file your documents with a state registry so that they will always be available in the event something were to happen to you.
National Healthcare Decisions Day is a Great Time to Start the Conversation
Nobody wants to talk about their own death, disability, or even the idea that this may happen someday. But it’s something we just need to do.
National Healthcare Decisions Day is a great opportunity to start the conversation about advanced planning. Ben Frankly said that there is nothing in life that is certain except death and taxes.
Yesterday was tax day, so today is a great time to start a conversation about end of life healthcare issues.
But honestly, there is never a good time to discuss these issues, and the worst time to do it is when you are being admitted to a facility and may need these documents.
So pick a day, any day, and start talking about what you want your plan to look like.
Making End of Life Decisions Now is a Gift to Your Loved Ones
By making the responsible choice and executing an advanced directive and nominating a health care agent, you are providing an incredible gift to your family.
If you fail to do this, when the time comes that these documents are needed, the doctors and staff at the hospital will be forced to try to determine what you would have wanted, without input from your loved ones.
Nobody wants to be put in that position.
Need Help Putting Together Your Healthcare Directives?
Estate Planning Attorney James Hart provides advanced planning in every one of his estate planning packages. For a limited time, we are offering a planning session for free ($350 value) to new estate planning clients.
If you would like to learn more or wish to schedule a planning session, you may contact our office at (919) 460-5422. Alternatively, you may fill our out online contact form by clicking here.