Estate planning for a chronic illness

Living with a chronic illness is hard, but so is leaving loved ones without any information or instructions regarding end-of-life care. Estate planning gives people who experience chronic conditions the opportunity to do so. While estate planning is most commonly associated with handling a person's estate after his or her death, the process can also help that individual outline personal wishes regarding future medical care and more.

There are approximately 130 million adults who live with chronic illnesses, including many in Louisiana. Although many of these people have excellent relationships with their medical providers, this does not guarantee that their wishes will be respected. A living will, health care power of attorney and medical information release can make sure that a person's wishes are understood and upheld.

A living will is a document that a person can use to outline his or her wishes in the event that he or she becomes incapacitated. Information about that individual's chronic illness and treatment preferences should be included. However, a living will cannot possibly cover every situation that might arise, so there should be a trusted individual to make decisions on the patient's behalf. A person who has a chronic medical condition should carefully consider who he or she names in a health care power of attorney, as this gives another person the ability to make medical decisions.

Medical information releases are also important. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects the personal information of patients and does not permit unauthorized individuals in Louisiana to access confidential information. A HIPAA release authorizes an individual to access the protected health information of another person. Information contained in medical records may help some people make more informed decisions regarding medical care and treatment.

Estate planning can be uncomfortable for a number of reasons. Considering what to do with assets after a person's death or what type of end-of-life care he or she is comfortable with means confronting mortality. No matter how uncomfortable a person might feel about this process, it is important to consider how family members may struggle without any guidance on these sensitive matters. Carefully crafting an estate plan can be one of the easiest ways to not only protect a person's wishes and estate, but to also ease the burden on surviving family members.

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