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Why Signing a HIPAA Release is Important in Estate Planning

The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc. June 30, 2022

Estate Planning text, Office desk with computer technology, highEstate planning does not only deal with how your affairs will be handled after you are gone. A well-drafted estate plan can also protect you, your loved ones, and your assets in the event of incapacity. One of the most common questions people who worry about possible incapacity ask is, “Who will make medical decisions on my behalf if I become incapacitated?

There are several estate planning tools that help ensure that you will receive the medical care you want even if you lose the physical or mental capacity to make decisions on your own. One of those tools is a medical power of attorney, which allows you to appoint a person who will make decisions regarding your future medical care.

One potential problem with a medical power of attorney is that the designated individual – the so-called healthcare agent – may not have access to your medical records due to the restrictions provided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). That is why signing a HIPAA release is important when creating an estate plan and planning for possible incapacity.

As an estate planning attorney at The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc., I assist clients with all aspects of estate planning, including issuing HIPAA authorizations to clients’ agents and loved ones. With an office in Woodland Hills, California, I help clients resolve various estate planning matters and have the necessary skills to handle litigation when necessary.

Understanding HIPAA Restrictions

HIPAA includes several regulations that may impact estate planning. One of them covers the privacy of protected health information, also referred to as PHI. When a patient is incapacitated, their family members and even their healthcare agent may not have access to the patient’s medical records because of HIPAA’s privacy restrictions.

Protected health information under HIPAA includes medical records that relate to:

  • Medical conditions of the patient, including past conditions;

  • The type and nature of healthcare provided to the patient; and

  • The payments made to healthcare providers while receiving medical care.

Healthcare providers are prohibited from disclosing a patient’s individually identifiable health information unless the patient signed a HIPAA release. These restrictions apply to various healthcare providers, including physicians, nurses, and pharmacists, among others.

A Patient Can Sign a HIPAA Release

Under HIPAA, patients can authorize the release of their individually identifiable health information to third parties by signing a HIPAA release before they become incapacitated. To be valid, a HIPAA release must meet the following criteria:

  1. The release is a written document.

  2. The release is signed by the patient and includes the date of signing the document.

  3. The document identifies the health information that can be disclosed under the terms of the HIPAA release.

  4. The document identifies the individuals to whom the health information can be disclosed.

  5. The release has an expiration date.

  6. The document states the patient’s right to revoke the authorizations.

  7. The release must state that the patient acknowledges that their health information may be redisclosed by the individuals identified in the document.

Preparing and signing a HIPAA release is important for estate planning purposes. The release helps ensure that your protected health data is accessible to authorized parties. However, signing a HIPAA release can be a sensitive matter. After all, most people do not want to think about the mere possibility of losing their mental or physical capacity. The goal of estate planning is to make sure that you and your loved ones are prepared for any outcome.

Why It’s Important in Estate Planning

With a HIPAA authorization, authorized parties, including your family members, can speak to healthcare providers about your medical condition and discuss the provision of medical treatment. Without the authorization, your loved ones may not be able to communicate with your doctor and may be kept in the dark about your condition.

Signing a HIPAA release is important for adults of any age because incapacity may come without warning. Consider speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney to learn more about HIPAA authorizations.  

Legal Guidance You Can Trust

As an estate planning attorney in Woodland Hills, California, I assist clients with HIPAA authorizations throughout the state of California, including Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. Reach out to The Law Offices of Kenneth W. Drake, Inc. to get the legal guidance you need and find out more information about HIPAA authorizations.