You may know that one of the necessary steps in estate planning is to name a “personal representative” (Florida’s term for “executor”) to settle your affairs after you pass away. But did you know that you should also name your trusted family members and other helpers as your “personal representatives” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)?
HIPAA was put into place to protect the personal health information given to and generated by health care professionals. It is the reason that you have to sign all those forms at the doctor’s office about the privacy of your medical records and who may have access to them. Although we agree that keeping our medical information private is an important goal, we also often see unintended consequences of HIPAA.
For example, one of our team members has a sister who has become very ill. Her physical state has rendered her incapable of making the decisions and taking the actions necessary to care for herself. Her family wants to help, but unfortunately she did not authorize any of them to access her health information and now is in no condition to share the details or grant access. This means that the family cannot talk to her doctors and therefore does not know enough about her illness or treatment needs to know how to help her.
As we often say, this stressful situation could have been avoided with proper planning. HIPAA allows you to give your loved ones access to all of your doctors, medical records, and other health information when they need it by appointing them as your “personal representatives” in writing. We believe that everyone should have this document as a lifetime planning tool and include it in all of our flat-fee will and trust packages. If you would like to learn more about comprehensive planning, you are welcome to attend one of our monthly Truth About Estate Planning workshops.