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W. Va. estate planning: Making healthcare choices for elders

Health care laws are strict and with good reason. They deal with private matters and when it comes to estate planning in West Virginia, the law makes it clear that only those who are authorized will be privy to information regarding a person's health and health care options. Adult children and their aging parents need to establish some framework for making decisions about health care if parents are no longer able to do so. It is something best taken care of when all those involved have a say in planning for the future.

Not doing so might mean children will need to go to court to establish guardianship of their parent(s), which can be both costly and time-consuming. This can be avoided by having the documents in place should anything happen. There are some documents that are needed in these situations.

The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) keeps information and health records private to those without authorization. Getting authorization is relatively easy and the form is available at doctors' offices. It allows the physician to share with a child health information about his or her elderly parents. Health care proxy, or medical power of attorney, allows children to make decisions for their elderly parents regarding health care. It must be prepared while parents are still mentally competent and are in agreement.

An advance health care directive or a living will allows people to make their own end-of-life care arrangements. This document spells out things like if the person wished to be resuscitated, if life support should be used or if a feeding tube should be used. Essentially, it spells out what someone wishes to be done or not done in specific circumstances.

Waiting until after a health care emergency is not prudent to have these directives prepared. The aid of a West Virginia attorney experienced in wills and estate planning can help in fashioning these kinds of documents. An attorney can also give advice on other planning tools depending on the client's circumstances.

Source: agingcare.com, "Legal Documents To Make Healthcare Decisions for Elderly Parents", Marlo Sollitto, Accessed on Oct. 6, 2017

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