Why You Need an HCP Now More Than Ever

Despite many medical professionals and estate planning lawyers stressing the importance of a health care proxy (HCP) and related documents, only about 25 percent of adults actually have them. In fact, many adults never even establish an HCP until they find themselves unexpectedly in the emergency room. That is fine when it works out, but what happens if you lose consciousness and cannot make the decision for yourself?

Three Essential Health-Related Legal Documents

There are three health-related legal documents that all adults should have made official: a living will, a health care proxy and HIPAA authorization. A living will is a document through which you can express your wishes regarding medical treatments, life-extending measures and end-of-life procedures. This document takes precedent. An HCP is a document that grants authority to another person to make health-related decisions for you in the event that you cannot. HIPAA authorization is a document that authorizes a person with power of attorney (POA) to access your medical information. Note that while the HCP and POA are often the same person, they can also be different people.

Health Care Proxy

If you do not have these documents in place, then your doctors will have to make decisions based on the parameters set forth by the State of New Jersey. This may result in a doctor making a decision for you that you did not want. If your preference is indicated in a living will, then your doctors are legally obligated to make choices based on those wishes. If your will does not cover a particular decision, but you have an HCP named, then your doctors will abide by whatever choice that person makes.

Health Care Proxies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A common misconception about an HCP document is that it can only name one person. While this is often the case, it does not have to be. You can list multiple people and prioritize them. If your first choice for your HCP is incapacitated, the authority goes to the second choice and so forth. This is an option that often gets taken for granted during normal times. This time during the pandemic has been anything but normal, however, and there are cases where entire families have become debilitated. An all-too-common scenario during the pandemic is married couples who list each other as the HCP, and both become incapacitated. Their doctors are now responsible for any choices not covered by their living wills.

Should You Update Your Health Care Proxy for COVID-19?

It is highly recommended by most estate planning lawyers that you review all these documents on an annual basis, and update them as needed. Be mindful that updating often does not require an in-person meeting with your attorney and sometimes does not require a lawyer at all. An event like the pandemic is also an appropriate time to review these documents regardless of the last time you did so. Make sure that all the people you have chosen are still appropriate, and add multiple HCPs. Do not forget to speak with your HCPs about your wishes so that they can make the right decisions if the time comes.

Choose Your Health Care Proxy

It is never too early for any adult to get his or her living will, health care proxy and HIPAA authorization in order. Our current situation with the coronavirus has made this even more essential. If you need to create these legal documents or update them, the Knee Law firm is here to help. We can schedule you a private consultation with a Hackensack estate planning lawyer today. Our firm has established many pandemic-related precautions to keep our clients and staff safe. In many cases, it is possible to provide all the legal assistance a client needs over the phone, through email, via video meetings and so forth. Contact us online, or call us at (201) 996-1200.