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Saturday, July 10, 2010

What are they???

With the HIPAA Laws (Privacy Laws), every adult should have a Durable Power of Attorney and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare. If an adult is in an accident or becomes extremely ill and is incapacitated, sometimes even a spouse, adult child or parent is unable to get information from the medical community in order to advocate for the incapacitated person without these documents.

A Durable Power of Attorney gives a designated person the authority to manage a person's finances, for example pay their bills, until the incapacitated person regains capacity [gets better].

A Power of Attorney for Healthcare gives a designated person the authority to advocate for the incapacitated person's medical care.

SOMETIMES they are two separate documents and sometimes they are combined into one document.

These are powerful legal documents. When chosing someone to designate, much consideration needs to be taken to try to ensure that the person designated will make decisions about your medical care and finances that are in your best interests.

There are fill-in-the-blank forms on the Internet but I strongly encourage each reader to invest some money in having an attorney write the documents. If there is a reasonable chance that you or your parent may have to apply for Medicaid [or your State's equivalent], there will need to be special language put into the document to allow the designated person to do Medicaid planning. There is also a need for special HIPAA (Privacy law) language. The fill-in-the-blank forms often do not have these pieces. An attorney would most likely also encourage you to fill out a Healthcare Directive (Living Will) as well to help guide your designated person in making healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Call around to Elder Law Attorneys to find out what they charge. The charges vary. If you are very low income, call your local Area Agency on Aging. They have a program where attorneys donate their time.

If you have these documents but they are over five (5) years old or you have moved to another State, you need to have an attorney review them to make sure that the language is not outdated. Powers of Attorney are somewhat different from State to State. Also, you may realize that the person you designated is no longer the appropriate person or they have died or they have become incapacitated themselves.

Once you have your Powers of Attorney in hand, you need to make sure key people know where to find the originals. PLEASE DO NOT put the originals in a Safe Deposit Box without a key person as a signer on that box. If you are the only person who is signer on your safe deposit box, the designated person or person trying to help will have to get a court order in order to get into the box.

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