As important as it is to review your Will or trust periodically, it’s just as important to take a fresh look at your incapacity plan, and particularly your advance medical directives. Your advance medical directive, also called your Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, is the document with which you appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
As with any other part of your estate plan, it’s important to review your advance medical directive both to make sure it’s up-to-date with regard to your personal preferences, and to make sure that it’s still legally effective.
As far as personal reasons for reviewing your advance directive, you’ll want to consider who you’ve appointed to act as your healthcare surrogate. For example, if you appointed your spouse ten years ago, but you’ve since gotten a divorce, you’ll likely want to update your directive to name a new healthcare surrogate.
It’s also important to make sure your incapacity plan is up to speed with regard to changes in the law. One important thing to look at is whether your Advance Medical Directive is HIPAA compliant.
HIPAA, also known as the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that went into effect a few years ago. It contains provisions that require your healthcare providers to keep your medical records private. If your advance medical directive does not include language that is HIPAA-friendly, your healthcare surrogate may not be able to access your medical information or make decisions for you, even if you’re incapacitated.
Fortunately, there’s specific language that can be included in your advance medical directive to make it HIPAA compliant. If you’re concerned that your incapacity plan may not be up to date, check with your estate planning attorney. He or she can tell at a glance whether the HIPAA language is there. If it isn’t, he or she can help you update your incapacity plan.