In this time of great uncertainty, we wanted to remind you of the importance of completing an Advance Health Care Directive (in California) and a HIPAA waiver. Additionally, if you have already created an Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) and HIPAA waiver, it is critical that those persons whom you have designated as your agents with authority to make medical care, personal care, and life and death decisions on your behalf have copies of your documents or know where they can be easily located.
Every person age 18 and over must have an AHCD and a HIPAA waiver. Stated simply, with an AHCD, you can set forth your wishes regarding medical care, personal care, and life and death decisions in the event that you are unable to make these important decisions for yourself. Additionally, with an AHCD, you appoint an agent to make these decisions for you in the event of your incapacity or illness.
If you are age 18 or older, you become incapacitated, and you do not have an AHCD, your loved ones could be forced to seek court intervention via a conservatorship proceeding in order to make medical care, personal care, and life and death decisions for you. Conservatorship proceedings are very costly and time-consuming and may result in the appointment of a conservator who does not share your wishes regarding such decisions. Further, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to court services is significantly limited due to social distancing requirements and other restrictions. Your ability to obtain a court order, if needed, could be delayed at the very moment when time is of the essence.
With a HIPAA waiver, those persons designated by you will have access to your medical information when necessary. Absent your completion of a HIPAA waiver, medical providers are not permitted to disclose any of your medical information to other persons.
To avoid further stress during these trying times, please ensure that you complete an AHCD and HIPAA waiver if you have not already done so. This is a perfect time to complete important tasks that you have been putting off.
An estate planning attorney can prepare a customized AHCD and HIPAA waiver for you and for your loved ones on short notice. You can also obtain a generic fillable form from the Office of the Attorney General at https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/consumers/ProbateCodeAdvancedHealthCareDirectiveForm-fillable.pdf at no cost. You can also purchase a medical care kit from the California Medical Association at https://www.cmadocs.org/store/info/productcd/AHCD_ENG/t/advance-health-care-directive-kit-english.
Access to the AHCD and HIPAA waiver is important. For this reason, please ensure that your designated agents and doctors have access to your AHCD and HIPAA waiver. You can also register your AHCD with the California Secretary of State. Information is available at https://www.sos.ca.gov/registries/advance-health-care-directive-registry.
Our office continues to be fully operational. We have made arrangements to hold video and telephonic conferences with our clients throughout this period and remain accessible via telephone, email, our firm website at https://hopkinslawgroup.com and social media. We have also made arrangements for virtual signing of all documents. Lastly, we have taken all steps to ensure that our clients and staff are protected above and beyond what is required.
If you or anyone you know has questions regarding these or other estate planning issues, please feel free to contact us at (818) 206-8711 or at https://www.hopkinslawgroup.com/contact/. We are happy to answer your questions. We will also be holding informative webinars on various trust, estate, conservatorship, and probate matters over the next couple of months so keep a look out for information on our website at https://hopkinslawgroup.com/events/.
Please know that you are in our thoughts during these difficult times. We will all get through this together.