So, you did the responsible thing and spent a good amount of time and money creating your estate plan. Your lawyer spent a good deal of time with you and understood what was important to you – what makes you and your family unique. She used that knowledge to prepare your estate planning documents, which you subsequently executed in accordance with state law.
What did you do with your Health Care Advance Directives – also known in Florida as your Living Will and Designation of Health Care Surrogate? Are they still sitting in the binder or folder or envelope your lawyer gave you? How will that help you if you and your spouse are badly hurt on I-75 tomorrow? If you live alone and are found unconscious during a welfare check, how will the emergency personnel know who has the authority to make health care decisions for you or whether you have a Living Will? I personally know of an instance where a mother was found dead in her home by a hospice worker. The worker called 911 and then called a child the mother didn’t trust – instead of the mother’s emergency contact child. That child wasn’t notified of her mother’s death until the next day!
These documents should NOT be kept a secret – in fact, they should be widely disseminated as soon as you sign them. You should give a copy to every person you named as a potential Health Care Surrogate, and to all of your doctors and in-home care providers. You should also give them to the people you named as successor trustees or as Agent on your financial Durable Power of Attorney; that way they’ll know who has those important powers.
Obamacare, also known as the ACA, mandated the use of electronic health records. But the sad fact is that many doctors have been resistant to using them, and many others can’t figure out how to use them. A couple of studies in the Journal of Palliative Medicine show that ER doctors are almost never able to find their patients’ health care advance directives in electronic health records.
Not a very comforting thought if that’s you or a loved one lying on the operating table.
That’s why everyone you named as a trusted helper in your estate plan should have easily accessible copies of your Living Will and Designation of Health Care Surrogate – both hard copies and digital copies.
It’s also why we offer all of our estate planning clients the opportunity to enroll in DocuBank – either as part of our annual maintenance plan or as a standalone option. DocuBank provides easy access to your health care directives 24/7/365 anywhere in the world!
Emergency personnel will find your DocuBank emergency card when they search your wallet. Or you can simply give your card to emergency personnel or hospital staff when needed. They can print your directives immediately by visiting the DocuBank website or get them by fax by calling the 800-number printed on the card. If you have a cell phone, you can even call DocuBank yourself! Just ask the hospital staff for their fax number and call the 800-number.
We believe DocuBank membership is important because we want to make sure that your estate plan works exactly how you want it to. After all, what good are the documents we created if the doctor cannot find them when you’re hospitalized?
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