HIPAA and Estate Planning in Michigan

Comprehensive estate planning involves more than deciding who will receive your property when you die. A comprehensive estate plan also includes long-term care planning, incapacitation planning, and retirement planning. Our Michigan estate planning attorneys discuss numerous options for ensuring that you, your family, your privacy, and your property are protected in a variety of different situations. One important, but often overlooked, element of an estate plan is including a HIPAA authorization.

What is a HIPAA Authorization?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that protects your personal health information. A HIPAA authorization allows a health care provider to share personal health information about an individual with other entities or individuals. The Act requires that a HIPAA authorization contain certain information and clauses for it to be valid. The authorization must also be written in plain language and have an expiration date.

Without a HIPAA authorization, a health care provider may not be able to share personal health information, even with some family members. Therefore, HIPAA authorizations are an important element of a comprehensive estate plan. Without a HIPAA authorization, your family and appointed agents may not be able to gather the information they need to protect you and your assets.

HIPAA Authorizations and Estate Planning Documents

You can sign a HIPAA authorization as a stand-alone document giving certain individuals access to your personal health information. However, it is also a good idea to include a HIPAA authorization in some of your estate planning documents to ensure that certain individuals have access to your health information. The authorization must comply with HIPAA laws to be valid, so it is always a good idea to work with an experienced Michigan estate planning lawyer when drafting these documents.

For example, health care directives and health care powers of attorney appoint an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. However, even with a health care power of attorney, some physicians may be hesitant to release medical information unless they have a valid HIPAA authorization. Including a HIPAA authorization in your health care power of attorney can ensure that your agent has the information he or she needs to make informed health care decisions on your behalf.

Likewise, a successor trustee may need access to personal health information to determine if you are incapacitated under the terms of a trust agreement. The trust agreement may provide that the successor trustee assumes the duties and responsibilities of a trustee who is incapacitated, but the successor trustee cannot be certain you are incapacitated unless the successor trustee can receive information from your doctor confirming your condition.

Using templates of estate forms you find online for estate documents can be risky. The documents may include blanket authorizations that grant extensive access to your health care information or the templates may not include the required legal language for a HIPAA authorization. In either case, the results may complicate matters and result in unnecessary complications.

Restricting Access to Personal Health Information

The purpose of the HIPAA laws is to ensure that your personal health information remains private. It restricts access to your information for your safety and privacy. Therefore, you need to be cautious when including HIPAA authorizations in your estate documents. These authorizations should only be used to protect yourself in the event of incapacitation.

Contact a Michigan Estate Planning Lawyer for More Information

We have extensive experience in all matters related to estate planning, including incapacitation planning and HIPAA authorizations. Our legal team works with you to develop an estate plan that meets your needs, protects your family, and ensures that your wishes are carried out when you cannot speak for yourself.

Call The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry at 888-390-4360 or use our online contact form to request additional information or schedule a consultation with a Michigan estate planning attorney.

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