Incapacity planning: Who will make medical decisions for you?

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2022 | Estate planning

While nobody imagines they will end up incapacitated, through physical or mental issues, it is imperative to plan for such a possibility. Without a plan, you may find yourself without any control if you a disability or injury prevents you from stating your wishes yourself or making decisions.

Certain preparations allow you to express your wishes in advance.

Advance directive

According to HealthAffairs, only around one in every three Americans had an advance directive or other document specifying end-of-life wishes in 2017.  An advance directive is where you express in written form what kinds of treatment you want and do not want if you are unable to speak for yourself at any point. For instance, you may detail what end-of-life care, such as resuscitation or a feeding tube, you allow or absolutely refuse.

Power of attorney

A power of attorney is a document that grants a trusted individual the power to make certain decisions for you if you are unable to. There is more than one kind of power of attorney, including specialized ones that only cover certain areas, such as finances. They can also be temporary. A health care power of attorney enables your chosen representative to make medical decisions for you.

HIPAA authorization

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability policy protects you from the invasion of your medical privacy. However, if you are in an incapacitated state, healthcare providers may need to share your records with healthcare agents and your family members, so they can deal with details like prescriptions and insurance for you. A HIPAA authorization allows the sharing of your records with these individuals if you are in such a state.

Neither one of these documents is better than the other. Having both in conjunction helps ensure that you have a solid plan for if you become physically or mentally incapacitated.