When caring for an elderly family member, there are financial and medical protections which need to be addressed. By making plans and having legal documents in hand prior to an emergency situation, family members will be able to abide by their loved one’s wishes. Having these documents available will be one less thing to worry about when you’re sitting in the emergency room.
Durable Power of Attorney - or Attorney in Fact, is an authorization to act on someone else's behalf in a legal or business matter. This form gives the power to a designated agent to act on behalf of an individual and ends upon the death of that individual. Some banks and other financial institutions supply their own forms and may not accept a boiler plate, so you should check with your personal companies.
Power of Attorney forms are not usually enforceable on a bank deposit box. Unless your signature is on the bank’s card and you have access to the key, it is very difficult to gain access to an individual’s safe deposit box. Most people choose to purchase an in-home fireproof safe to store valuables instead of paying fees for the service.
Health Care Power of Attorney - Advance Health Care Directive - This legal document appoints another person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. It outlines specific instructions about any aspect of the person’s health care regarding the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of treatment to keep you alive, as well as the provision of pain relief when you are not able to give these instructions. This can also include your consent or refusal of diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and programs of medication, direct the withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and your intention to donate your bodily organs and tissues following your death.
Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information - The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) limits use, disclosure or release of any health information (or, sometimes herein, “protected medical information”), so you will need a signed and notarized Authorization for Release of Protected Health Information.
This form authorizes a health care provider (a “covered entity” as defined by HIPAA) to use, release and disclose health information to assigned named individuals. Depending on the wording of the form, it may also give the person or persons named the right to bring a legal action against any covered entity that refuses to recognize and accept the Authorization.
Have these forms with you at all times. These medical information forms should be carried with you at all times. Copies should be made and distributed to all your medical care-giving professionals, including doctors, dentists, optometrists, et al and kept in the glove compartment of any vehicle in which you are a passenger.
Store forms in your refrigerator. Place these forms, as well as all prescription medication information in a RED envelope marked EMERGENCY MEDICAL INFORMATION and tape it to the inside of your refrigerator. (You can also obtain a magnetic information card from your health care provider which will be attached to the outer door) Should you become unconscious, paramedics are trained to check inside refrigerators for medication and will see the envelope when they open the door.
File your medical information with a service. As an alternative to carrying all the forms, you may sign up with a membership document service such as DocuBank. This is a service where you fill out a membership application form and send or fax the hard copies of your completed medical forms (except the power of attorney) to a central location where they will keep them on file. They will, in turn send you a wallet size card with their 24 hours customer service phone number, which will give any medical personal immediate access to your medical forms information via fax 24 hours a day. Docubank charges a first year service fee of $45.00 with discounts available.
You can find your state’s forms on-line, usually under the Probate Code section, or check with an estate planning expert. You do not need an attorney to file any of these documents, however, you will need to have the documents notarized by a licensed notary. In all legal matters, it is always best to consult with an Estate Planning attorney in your area.