A few years ago I wrote a blog about drafting a health care proxy for your young freshmen. This is a topic I often talk about because it is so important, but most people never think of it. Well, I was thrilled when recently a young family member forwarded an e-mail from her college and asked for my help. This e-mail recommended that she have a health care proxy, power of attorney, and HIPAA authorization drafted before the start of school.
If you have a family member who is suffering from some form of dementia, you know how financially difficult providing quality care can be. According to a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine, the financial burden on the nation as a whole is staggering, with the costs now exceeding those of both heart disease and cancer. [Read more…]
Massachusetts was recently struck by Hurricane Sandy, as was most of the east coast. We did pretty well here in Worcester and our hearts are with those who fared much worse than us in New York and New Jersey among other places.
Watching the devastation on television made me take action on two fronts, one: donate money to the Red Cross, and two: make sure my financial house was as ready for an emergency as my physical house was.
Here in Massachusetts we’re preparing for the snow storm season, so it is never too late to start.
For an emergency like the one the east coast just experienced experts recommend, among other things water and food to last about three days, cash and a tank full of gas (http://www.redcross.org/prepare).
What about our financial house? Let’s start with the most immediate needs and think about what should go into an emergency financial kit:
1. Access to cash in an emergency
Keep information about all the accounts that could give you access to cash, this includes checking, savings, money market, and even home equity accounts. You will need the account numbers and contact information for the financial institution. Most often, a copy of a statement will have all the information you need.
You should also consider including a copy of all your credit and debit cards, both front and back. This will give you the information you need to pay in some cases, or to contact the institution should you need to.
2. Medical Information and Caregivers
Your emergency financial kit should also include information about your preferred medical providers. Having their contact information can ensure you are treated by your preferred provider in an emergency, and in some cases, save you money.
3. Insurance Information
Make copies of ALL your insurance cards. Home, car, medical, dental and prescription. If your home or vehicle are damaged, the insurance information in there may be damaged as well, also, if you end up having to evacuate and leave your home or vehicle, you will not want to return just to retrieve these.
Also make sure you have the contact information for your insurance company and agent. Often in an emergency where companies are swamped with requests, your agent can help you get through or connect you to other resources available to you.
4. Longer Term Investments
Your emergency financial kit should also include copies of paperwork documenting your investments accounts. Your investment accounts include IRA, 401(k), stocks, bonds, 529, or any other retirement or long-term savings account. Also include the contact information for any financial planner or planners who manage these accounts for you.
5. Your Estate Planning Documents
Your Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney should always be in a safe place, but especially in an emergency. You should place your paperwork in your emergency financial kit, or the information on how to access them, whether they are with your attorney or a safety deposit box etc…
6. Accessing Your Financial Information online
If all the information for accessing you finances and any other important sites are safely locked away in your memory, you may want to consider including the websites and passwords in your emergency kit, or if you do not feel safe carrying that around, you can provide them to a trusted person who is out of harm’s way. This will allow your family to access important information or funds if you are incapacitated, or simply incommunicado.
With the winter upon us here in Massachusetts, and with the painful lessons the Northeast just learned fresh in our memories, now is a great time to look at your emergency plan. If you have not done much in the way of financial or estate planning, now is a good time to think about that as well, and whether your family would be protected in the worst-case-scenario. Call us to discuss your planning and the best way to protect your family in an emergency.
If you’ve had legal documents drafted in Massachusetts pertaining to your health, financial, and long-term care wishes, you should have them reviewed and revised now! Massachusetts laws relating to powers of attorney and health care proxies have recently changed. This along with federal medical privacy laws can affect your already-created documents.
The federal law, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), generally prevents health care providers from disclosing your personal medical information to anyone other than you and someone you’ve named as your “personal representative.” Frequently you will sign medical releases at your physician’s office allowing them to communicate with any specialists you are seeing, like a podiatrist or a cardiologist. Protecting your medical privacy is very important but the law can create some complications. [Read more…]
There are several websites that offer customized, do-it-yourself wills and other estate planning documents. These computer-based services appear to offer the consumer a cost-effective and convenient alternative to visiting an Estate Planning or Elder Law attorney. Or do they? Is online estate planning worth the convenience and initial savings? How do the documents created compare to those that a qualified attorney would produce? [Read more…]
Some people think that Elder Law and Estate Planning attorneys are only useful further down the road. They think, “I’m healthy. I don’t need to worry about those things now.” Even while you are healthy, there is one document that everyone over the age of 18 should have in place: a Health Care Proxy (HCP). A health care proxy is necessary to ensure that someone, a health care agent, will be available to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them on your own because you are incapacitated. Currently, in Worcester County, another form is also worth considering: the Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form. This medical order works with the HCP to inform your health care agent and your doctors what you actually want to happen in various circumstances. [Read more…]
Lately, the matter of Brooke Astor’s estate has been covered in the media. Like many people she had an estate plan in place which included a Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy, which nominated subsituted decision makers in the event she would lose the capacity to make important financial and/or medical decisions at some point during her elder years. She did not want to burden her family with obtaining a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship through the courts. She did end up suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her son took over her financial powers. He just didn’t do a very good job… [Read more…]
Who do you know that is getting ready to go off to college this fall? Perhaps it’s your own child, a niece/nephew, grandchild, or son/daughter of a friend. Families will soon be shopping for bedding, mini-fridges, Easy Mac, and textbooks. With the myriad of things to be done before the fall, I’ll bet you very few family “to-do” lists include a check off box for Get Junior a Health Care Proxy. This often overlooked necessity is something that should, at the very least, be considered.
When your child turns 18 they are a bona-fide adult and Mom and Dad cannot step in to make medical decisions for their now “adult” children. In Massachusetts, the only document legally recognized to name a substitute decision maker is a Health Care Proxy. However, the overwhelming majority of college students do not have a Health Care Proxy in place. [Read more…]