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Four Legal Documents for Managing an Incapacitated Parent’s Affairs

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By Hook Law Center

When an elderly parent becomes incapacitated or terminally ill, the management of the parent’s financial and medical affairs often falls to one of the children. By having the proper legal documents in place, you can help ensure that this process goes smoothly. They help to keep an already difficult situation from becoming much worse because of legal hassles. Following are four key documents you should have in place before your parent falls ill. Your elder law attorney’s guidance is crucial; he or she can ensure that these documents are properly created to withstand legal challenges.

Durable power of attorney: Using this document, an individual (like your parent) grants another (like you) the legal authority to manage his or her financial affairs. Unlike a regular power of attorney, a durable power of attorney remains in effect if the grantor becomes incapacitated.

Health care proxy: This document grants a person the authority to make medical decisions on another’s behalf. It is sometimes called a “power of attorney for health care.” You should discuss what constitutes an acceptable quality of life (one that is worth prolonging) for your parent. For instance, if a feeding tube became necessary to keep your parent alive, would he or she want that? Doctors may balk at carrying out a health care proxy’s instructions if another family member disagrees. As such, it is important for your parent to keep other family members informed about the decisions you have discussed.

Medical information release: Patients use this form to give their doctors permission to share their medical records with third parties. These forms can be obtained from the doctors themselves. There is no widely accepted standard form. As an alternative, an experienced elder law attorney, such as those at Hook Law Center, can draft one for your parent. The releases designed at Hook Law Center are called Authorizations for the Release of Protected Health Information, and they comply with the federal law protecting patient privacy (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act (HIPPA)). An attorney-drafted document can apply to any doctor/health professional who is treating your parent. In many cases, multiple doctors will be involved in a patient’s treatment. In an emergency, there may not be time for your parent to give individual authorizations to each doctor/health professional involved.

Living will: A living will specifies what medical treatments a person is willing to accept if he or she becomes incapacitated and cannot communicate his or her wishes. Common inclusions and exclusions include the use of resuscitation, feeding tubes and mechanically assisted breathing. The laws concerning living wills vary from state to state, and the documents often contain language that is too broad to apply to many medical conditions. Consult with your elder law attorney to decide whether your parent should have a living will in addition to a health care proxy.

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Posted on Saturday, February 15th, 2014. Filed under Estate Planning, Long-Term Care.
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