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Important healthcare documents for estate planning

Many adults with elderly parents take an active role in their parent's health care. In order to comply with Florida laws and federal privacy regulations, caregivers need to complete two estate planning documents. Properly drafted health care powers of attorney and HIPPA release forms ensure that adult children or other caretakers are able to get the information they need to help their loved ones make medical decisions.

A Designation for Health Care Surrogate, the form often used in Florida, allows a patient to assign another person to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to do so themselves. A health care power of attorney may be used in place of the Designation for Health Care Surrogate in some circumstances. This document advises medical professionals that the person named in the document can make decisions on behalf of the patient.

In addition to having a Designation for Health Care Surrogate on file with doctors and hospitals, it is also important to have a HIPPA release. This form gives medical providers, including doctors, nurses and support staff, permission to discuss medications and treatment plans with the person or people listed on the form. Giving more than one trusted person access to information can help ensure that someone is able help a patient when the health care surrogate isn't available.

Estate planning can help prepare for situations where a person is not able to communicate their wishes to others. By designating a health care surrogate and giving them a HIPPA release, a person who is seriously ill can give someone they trust power to make their health care decisions. A lawyer with experience in estate planning can help a client prepare the documents that will be needed in such circumstances.

Source: Miami Herald, "Keeping copies of healthcare documents vital to ensure access ", Nancy Stein, April 11, 2014

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