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Rotary Happenings: Learning about matters that matter

By Staff | Oct 22, 2014

Wills, estates, probate, oh my! These words certainly bring dread into our heart. Whether we’re dealing with a loved one’s passing or preparing for our own, the hope is that everyone have an understanding of the five basic estate planning and advance directive documents that provide clear information at someone’s passing.

One of Rotary’s favorite attorneys on the island, Janet Strickland P.A. and club Rotarian, spoke to us last Friday on a couple of these very matters. The documents she spoke about: Living Wills, HIPAA Release, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, Durable Power of Attorney, and Last Will and Testament.

A Living Willis the document that allows you to direct the withholding of artificial means to keep you alive when two doctors have certified that you are in a vegetative state or braindead and will not recover. Statements could also include nutrition and hydration instructions, quality-of-life statements, feeding-tube directives, pain-relief instructions, organ donations, and even burial instructions.

Why is this important? Well, because this document provides your family with an understanding of your wishes. This relieves them from making emotionally charged decisions under duress and giving them peace of mind that the right thing is being done per your request.

HIPAA ReleaseThe Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actprotects your medical privacy. This document allows designated persons immediate access to your medical information, regardless of your capacity. How many of us have filled out these forms at the doctor’s office? I dare say all of us have and rightfully so. This, again, protects you but it also allows your named loved ones access to your medical records regarding your condition and treatment protocol. This is extremely important. The HIPAA Act prohibits your healthcare providers from releasing your healthcare information unless you have provided a HIPAA release form. Provide this document to your attorney and your health-insurance provider.

Designation of Health Care SurrogateThis document allows you to designate a healthcare surrogate who can make healthcare decisions for you to obtain your medical records and information if you are incapacitated and need assistance with such matters. This goes beyond the HIPPA information releasethis names a person that can direct your medical care. Janet did mention that, if possible, this should be a person living close by. In some cases, decisions have to be made quickly. Provide this document to your attorney and your health-insurance provider.

Durable Power of AttorneyThis form allows you to designate a person who is authorized by you to handle your financial matters, including when you become incapacitated or otherwise need assistance with your financial affairs. This is a very powerful document and is effective immediately, so it should be stored in a safe place. Your attorney’s office is best.

Last Will and TestamentAllows you to direct what happens with your property when you die and who receives it. Now, this is the document that can cause some real trouble. This is why you need a good estate-planning attorney and is too complicated to go into in this column.

Some side notes: Janet made sure to tell us that: “When you put anyone’s name on your bank account (a joint account), that money is not part of your estate. When you have this kind of account and you die, the money in the account will automatically become the property of the other accountholder. When it comes to your personal items, it is not good enough to just talk about who gets what but to formally list them in your will. There are many family issues that rear their ugly heads over these small items.

Other estate planning documents can include Revocable Trusts, Charitable Trusts, and Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILITs). See an attorney; it will save a lot of heartache for everyone.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club meets 7 a.m. every Friday morning at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel. Guests are always welcomed.