When I review older estate plans for clients, they often do not include HIPAA Authorizations. Obviously, if it was prior to 1996 (when the HIPAA law was enacted), they wouldn't have them included. But even more recent plans than 1996 often do not have an authorization as part of their plans. Recently, they have become much more common as a document that you should have with your will. The rise of their use with the medical profession (almost every doctor you see these days has you sign one on your way in the door for an appointment) has meant that they should be considered an important part of your estate plan as well.
What does a HIPAA Authorization Do?
The authorization form allows your family members or other people you choose to be able to access your medical records and speak to the medical professionals about your care. If you don't have a HIPAA Authorization on file, the medical providers won't necessarily speak to them and that could really cause some issues with your medical care. Especially if you aren't married or don't have family readily available to talk to your doctors, there may be no one for the doctors to discuss possible treatments with.
How Do You Draft a HIPAA Authorization?
Like many other forms, you can probably find a copy online. HIPAA Authorizations are not actually that complicated. For this reason, working with an attorney on your estate plan already is an easy way to get this done. It takes only a few minutes and should be included in the documents that your attorney is putting together for you.
If you are trying to do it yourself, or if you just want some guidance, a HIPAA Authorization has some common features:
- It says it is a HIPAA (not "HIPPA") Authorization;
- Has your legal name on it;
- Authorizes all medical providers to disclose your information to the people you name;
- Has dates for when it is in effect; and
- Has an expiration date (normally 2 years).
Once you've got your HIPAA Authorization drafted and signed, you'll want to give copies to your doctors and keep the original with your estate plan documents. I always recommend you also use a checklist that has all of the important information that someone would need to have access to and let them know where these documents are located.
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If you don't have an estate plan that includes a HIPAA Authorization, or if you're just getting the process of getting a will prepared up and running, let's schedule a Legal Strategy Session to make sure you've got the right documents you need.