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Addressing chronic illnesses during estate planning

Jul 17, 2019 | Estate Planning

Living with a chronic illness presents many challenges, including securing necessary medical care. While the daily lives of those living with chronic conditions often reflect those challenges, those issues are frequently left out of estate planning. With the number of people in Florida who are living with chronic illnesses growing, planning for the future is perhaps more important than ever.

In America, there are over 130 million adults living with chronic medical problems. That figure is expected to increase to 157 million by 2020. Of those currently living with chronic illnesses, nine million are cancer survivors who must live with devastating side effects of treatment. Adults between the ages of 65 and 74 are also struggling, as 25% have at least one significant chronic illness. By age 85, half of people in this age group have some type of cognitive impairment.

These individuals should consider including releases for HIPAA — Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — in their estate plans. While health information is usually confidential, a HIPPA release would allow an authorized person to access relevant protected information. Should a person become incapacitated, a HIPPA release along with a medical power of attorney can help that designated individual make the most informed decisions possible.

Living wills can further clarify medical needs and preferences regarding care. It is a good idea for a person to include information about his or her specific chronic illness. Providing information on past treatments — both effective and not — as well as possible experimental drug therapies or treatments can be extremely helpful.

Estate planning can be difficult in even the most ideal situations, but confronting the difficult subject of morality on top of living with a chronic illness is especially hard. It can even be confusing for a person to determine what documents he or she should look at during estate planning. For these reasons, some Florida residents choose to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about their options.