Home Preparation, Planning and New Beginnings Overlooked Legal Documents You Need to File

Overlooked Legal Documents You Need to File

Estate planning

Elder law and estate planning attorney Andrea Lee joins Suzanne to talk about essential legal documents to have in place no matter your age, keeping them up to date, and describing oft overlooked documents such as the HIPAA release and POLST form, Physicians Order of Life Sustaining Treatment form. Andrea Lee serves as an attorney for Legacy Estate Planning in Bellevue, Washington.

Andrea says, “Earlier, I said estate planning is a little bit like a pyramid. In the very bottom of that pyramid are documents every single person should have. And two of those documents are the financial and health care power of attorney. But in addition to that, there are a few other documents that every adult should have. When my daughter became an adult, I drafted them for her because they’re the documents that allow your loved ones to take care of you when you’re alive, but unable to care for yourself. And we hate to think about that time, if that ever happens.

“Do not do it online. If you are over the age of 65, then I would encourage you to work with an elder law attorney. Estate planning attorneys… can do that when you’re young. It’s totally different goals, because if you’re younger, it’s about finding heirs and making sure that you’re building your empire… The planning looks different, the objectives look different, and sometimes the documents look different… Now, it’s extremely important… that those documents be properly done and be kept up to date… We ask our clients to come back every five years. We oftentimes don’t have to make a change in five years, sometimes we do. But that’s the opportunity for me to sit down with my clients and ask what’s changed in your life. It’s also an opportunity for us to review any law changes that might have happened.”

“Frequently overlooked is a HIPAA release. Due to the privacy laws at hospitals, they’re not necessarily supposed to share confidential medical information with individuals who are not the person seeking or receiving treatment, right? A HIPAA release is extremely important. That’s because an individual might, say, name their spouse as their healthcare power of attorney, and that individual is charged with making all the medical decisions for them, but they might also want to make sure that their children — who may or may not be the children of that spouse — be able to visit them at the hospital anytime, learn information about their care, find out the status of mom or dad. And without that HIPAA release, the hospital is only required to provide medical information to the one agent named in that healthcare power of attorney. And there have been instances where individuals have been isolated from their loved ones, because their one healthcare power of attorney has told hospitals or medical institutions or adult family homes not to share information with these individuals. ‘I’m the healthcare agent, I’m the one who gets to make decisions on behalf of the incapacity person, and legally I don’t want information shared with their children or their siblings.’ And maybe if that person who was incapacitated was competent, there’s no way they would want their children kept away from them. So people sometimes don’t realize how important that HIPAA release is in making sure your family members can get medical information and care information should you be incapacitated.

“I am going to talk about a POLST form. But there’s also a form that I provide to my clients, that estate planning and elder law attorneys do provide, called a living will. And people sometimes confuse the two documents, a living will versus a POLST form. A POLST form is the physician’s orders for life sustaining treatment. It is an order signed by your doctor. So an attorney cannot give you a POLST form. Your medical doctor can. They’re usually lime green….

“I had a neighbor, Ruth who was a fabulous neighbor, and she was diagnosed with terminal cancer… She actually came to me and said, my doctor wants me to sign this thing called a POLST form, what do you think? I said, ‘If you had a heart attack, would you want them to bring you back, so that you could die slowly of cancer?’ And she was like, ‘no, if I had a heart attack right now, I don’t want any treatment, because I know that I’m dying of cancer.’… However, for many individuals, even if they’re 75 or 80, maybe they don’t need a POLST form. But what they do need is a living will, and hopefully you have a living will.

“I have a living will that says, hey, if I’m in a car accident, if I have a stroke, if I have a heart attack, please do everything possible to treat me… But once the medical team has done everything possible, if two physicians determine that there is no hope I’m going to improve… and I can’t express my wishes… do I want to be let go? Do I want to be kept comfortable but have them remove life-sustaining means like hydration, nutrition, ventilation? And that’s a very different scenario. So, living wills are documents that every single person should have.”

Learn more:
* Andrea Lee: https://www.waltar.com/andrealee/
* Legacy Estate Planning: https://www.waltar.com/

Hear more:
* Legacy Estate Planning podcasts: https://answersforelders.com/tag/legacy-estate-planning/
* Power of attorney podcasts: https://answersforelders.com/tag/power-of-attorney/

Answers for Elders is part of the Senior Resource Network: https://www.seniorresource.com/
Check out our affiliate podcast Alzheimer’s Speaks: https://alzheimersspeaks.com/