By FPA member, Richard Durso, CFP®, AEP®
Last Updated: April 9, 2012
Many people have “superman” or “superwomen” complexes and think that they will never get hurt or sick. Others simply delay putting their estate affairs in order until they are older. Did you know that three biggest legal cases regarding health care issues involved women under age 30? (Nancy Cruzan, Karen Ann Quinlan and Terri Schiavo). These high profile court cases could have been avoided if they had done some planning in advance.
These three women did not have health care powers of attorney (HPOA). If they did, then there would not have been long, drawn out legal battles. A health care power of attorney allows you to state your medical wishes and name someone to act on your behalf in the case of incapacitation. Wouldn’t you rather state, in advance, what your preferences are? You may want extreme medical measures to keep you alive or you may choose no extraordinary means to keep you alive in a vegetative state if there was no realistic hope of leading a fulfilling life, however you define.
If you do have a HPOA, be certain that it was established after 2003 and that it contains the proper Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act language (HIPAA). If not, it may be worthless.
A HPOA may be even more important for same sex, unmarried or other non-traditional couples. It is best to leave no doubt about your intentions, especially in the case of potential disputes with family members. What if your family doesn’t get along with your partner? What if you have no documentation in place that says you can make decisions for your loved one? If the partner is not named, he/she would have no rights at all (in many states). They may not even be allowed to be in the hospital room.
A HPOA is a critical piece of your estate plan. Do yourself a favor and get your HPOA today!
FPA member Richard Durso, CFP®, AEP®, is a Financial Planner at RTD Financial Advisors, Inc. and Board Member of the FPA Philadelphia Tri-State Area Chapter