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Health Care documents: what do you need?

A health care crisis can arise in an instant – even for the healthiest person – so every estate plan should have a health care component. This provides the powers and instructions to your loved ones and doctors to carry out your wishes should you be unable to express them.  The proper health care documents should be drafted by an experienced Estate Planning law firm, such as Carrier Law.

There are several forms to consider:

  1. HCPOA – The Health Care Power of Attorney document is a critical document for all adults – probably the most important document on this list. When properly drafted, it allows a patient advocate to make health care decisions when the patient is not competent. It can allow the patient advocate to sign a POST – Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment. It can also cover HIPAA situations. Caution: When being admitted to the Hospital or other facility, you are often asked to present or sign a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). If you already have such a signed HCPOA, bring it with you – especially one drafted by Carrier Law. Our Health Care Power of Attorney document is much broader than most, and signing a new one could revoke it. (Most HCPOAs have language stating that upon signing the document you revoke all prior HCPOAs.)
  2. HIPAA Authorization – (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) This authorization is used to allow the personal representative to obtain medical records, billing records and communicate with health care professionals.  It is not used to make medical decisions. It can be used even if the patient is competent.
  3. Care Directive – Provides instructions to others as to what the patient’s wishes are for certain care that might be provided. Each care directive is unique in what the instructions provide. It may cover items such as: Living Will issues, life-sustaining treatment, artificial nutrition and hydration, and comfort care. It could include organ donation wishes, funeral and burial instructions, and instructions regarding an autopsy. These are all very important wishes for many people. Carrier Law recently updated their Care Directive instructions to be more comprehensive. If you previously filled out a Care Directive with Carrier Law and would like to update it, you can download a copy of the new version here.
  4. POST (Michigan Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) – This document is put into place when the patient has less than one year to live. The POST form must be signed by the patient’s physician, the PA, or nurse practitioner. It is a standard State of Michigan form that details the patient’s end-of-life care wishes. It covers: resuscitation, ventilation, defibrillation, and comfort measures. The recommended time to complete this document is when the patient is being discharged from a hospital and is going home, to a nursing home, or other location outside of a hospital.
  5. Funeral Representative Designation – A funeral representative is a person designated in a legal document as having authority to make decisions concerning the handling, disposition, or disinterment of a decedent’s body. The funeral representative is authorized by statute to make decisions regarding cremation and has the right to retrieve from the funeral home and possess cremated remains of the decedent immediately after cremation.
  6. Guardianship – A Guardianship (which is set up through Probate Court) can often be avoided with the proper legal health care documents in place before a crisis arises. A Guardianship is often a more expensive and time-consuming proposition, compared with the properly drafted health care documents.

How do these health care documents compare, and do I need all of them? That depends on your life stage and overall health.
Click below for a visual comparison of each document.