The Importance of Advance Directives
What is an ancillary estate planning document and why is it important? Estate planning ancillary documents are supportive documents that relate to and reinforce a main document, usually a trust or a will. Essentially, these documents work to make sure all life planning bases of an individual are covered in as many life and aging events as possible. They serve as an additional way to secure the decision making medical and financial needs and importance of legal and other documents.
For estate planning purposes, the most important ancillary documents are as follows:
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) (Living Will)
- Organ Donation (Usually already registered on driver’s license)
- Authorization for Release of Medical Information (HIPAA Compliant Release)
- Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Healthcare Surrogacy)
- Power of Attorney
Living wills provide doctors and medical providers the instructions on whether and to what extent to engage in life-prolonging treatment where death is imminent. In order for this document to be considered legal, it requires a signature from your doctor, and often a second doctor, and must be signed in front of two witnesses.
Authorization for Release of Medical Information documents are signed to grant organizations and medical professionals access to an individual’s medical records. These records are protected by HIPAA and cannot be shared unless this release has been signed.
Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates are more commonly used to provide a designated person or persons the ability to make medical treatment conditions when a person is physically or mentally incapacitated and thus unable to make the decisions him or herself.
Durable Powers of Attorney are arguably the most important of all ancillary documents. POAs must be specifically tailored to allow you to give control of your assets to someone that you have selected and trust. In addition, if you are left incapacitated or incompetent a properly drafted and executed POA will allow your designated attorney in fact make important decisions for you. This can include writing a check in your name, facilitating the sale of your house, establishing trusts on your behalf, and making end of life care decisions.
The above-described documents are key for peace of mind and are an important part of your estate planning, as they help to ensure that you are properly taken care of and your loved ones are not faced with emotional, costly, and time-consuming delays in the event something unfavorable occurs.