Time for a Checkup: Are Your Healthcare Planning Documents Up to Date?

By Jordan Rubin, CFA, CFP®

Senior Financial Advisor

January 11, 2023

Most of us are familiar with the concept of the annual physical. We make an appointment with our physicians so that they can take a close look at our health, perform important evaluations, and make recommendations of things we can do to remain as healthy as possible. Because prevention is such an important part of staying in good health, our annual checkup is one of the most important parts of our overall healthcare plan.

But too many Americans neglect another important health checkup: the one for their healthcare planning documents. Just like your will, your trust, and other parts of your financial estate plan, your healthcare documents—power of attorney, advance directives, HIPAA waiver, and possibly others—require periodic examination to make sure they are still accurate and current for your circumstances.

The problem is, too many of us procrastinate, or simply ignore, the need to periodically review these important documents. After all, the thought of being so ill that you can’t make your own decisions is not something any of us enjoy contemplating. And so, these matters often become dormant—until something happens. And then, it’s too late.

Here are some basic facts about three of the most important healthcare planning documents that most of us should have in place.

Power of Attorney (POA)

Whether for healthcare or financial purposes, a POA permits the designated person to make decisions and sign documents on your behalf if you are unable or incapable. Any competent adult in whom you have complete trust can serve as your attorney. Having your POA documents available in a location known and accessible to your designee prevents unnecessary distress and conflict in the event you can’t make decisions or take action for yourself. As stated by the daughter of a friend of ours, back when the pandemic was just starting, “I’d rather not have to arm-wrestle doctors over decisions you wouldn’t want made should the worst happen.” A POA can guarantee that you never put a family member in that position.

Advance Healthcare Directive

This document, sometimes called a living will, clarifies your wishes in the event of certain circumstances, including your wishes concerning type and duration of life support, end-of-life care, and other deeply sensitive matters. Having your wishes in writing can be an invaluable service to your family or other trusted persons at an intensely emotional time.

Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Waivers

HIPAA waivers stipulate that your designees have full access to your medical records, allowing them to fully discuss and understand your medical situation in the event of your incapacity. While advance directives can serve much the same purpose, a HIPAA waiver guarantees that your trusted designee can get all the information needed to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Depending on the state where you reside, some or all of the above documents may need to be notarized in order to be valid. Especially if you have any concerns about potential family conflict in the case of your incapacity, having the documents notarized, whether required by your state or not, can also save a lot of stress for your loved ones in the event the documents are needed.

At Modera Wealth Management, we take seriously our charge to place our clients’ best interest foremost. That includes advising and guidance about important non-financial matters, such as healthcare advance planning. To learn more, read our checklist, “What To Do When I Die.”

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