James A. Jones, Attorney At Law
Plan Today, Peace of Mind Tomorrow

Estate planning and chronic illness

There are over 130 million people in the United States who suffer from a chronic ailment. Washington residents who have a chronic disease or a loved one who is chronically ill should make sure that their estate plan includes provisions that properly address health and aging issues.

The estate plans for people who have one or more chronic diseases should be the same as those for people who are not chronically ill. However, the estate planning documents should be modified or updated so that they are able to better address the needs of a chronically ill person. It is important that chronically ill people have the proper documents in place as soon as possible after receiving a diagnosis. Depending on the progression of their condition, their ability to comprehend and sign legal documents can be hindered.

One important document to include in their estate plan is a HIPPA release. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act made it illegal for personal health information to be distributed to unauthorized parties. With a HIPPA release, individuals are able to designate a trusted person to have access to their protected health information.

The HIPAA release should be in written form, and it should specify that the authorization is being voluntarily made. It should also specify what type of health information can be disclosed; the release can authorize the disclosure of only certain items or an individual's complete medical record.

An attorney who practices elder law may assist clients with ensuring that estate plans have the necessary legal documents that will address certain health or aging issues and that will ensure asset protection. Assistance may be provided with completing specific types of powers of attorney, healthcare directives and living wills so that a client's wishes regarding long-term care are honored.

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