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Estate plans and chronic illness

Almost 157 million people around the country will have a chronic illness by 2020. Florida residents who have a chronic illness or have a loved one who is chronically ill should make sure that their estate plans include the legal documents that directly address their age-related and health-related challenges.

Such estate plans will not really differ from the typical estate plans that most people should develop. However, people with chronic illnesses should have an estate plan that take into account that their condition could progress to the point that their ability to understand the legal documents may soon be hindered. It is important that they get the necessary documents in place as soon as possible after they have received a diagnosis.

One important document to have on hand is a HIPAA release. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act details the requirements for keeping protected health information private; it prohibits the distribution of the personal health information to unauthorized parties. With a HIPAA release, people can give trusted individuals access to their private health information.

The release should be in written form and should specify that the authorization is being freely given. It should also detail exactly what type of health information can be disclosed. For example, individuals can allow their entire medical records to be divulged to a specific party, or they can permit only certain items. Who is allowed to disclose the information, such as a certain doctor, medical facility or list of providers, should also be specified.

An attorney may work to help clients develop a estate plan that directly addresses their needs. Assistance may be provided for writing specific types of powers of attorney. The attorney may offer counsel regarding how certain situations, such as chronic illness, should be addressed in the plan.

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