Expecting the Unexpected

I recently visited a friend in the hospital. The visit reminded me that we plan for vacations, we plan for retirement, but sometimes the most important thing to plan for is the one you don’t know is coming.

Very few of us expect to have an extended stay in the hospital, but this shouldn’t stop you from planning for one, says MSNBC’s Laura T. Coffey in her article, Be prepared for a hospital stay.

An unexpected stay in the hospital can be a crushing blow to your family if you don’t have some provisions in place. Those provisions include knowing the status of your healthcare insurance, appointing trusted people as primary contacts in case of emergency, and yes, keeping your estate plan current.

An estate plan does more than provide for your family upon your death, it also protects your family—and you—in case of an unexpected hospital stay. Numbers 4, 5, 6 and 9 of Coffey’s article underline this point by mentioning instruments or people that are an essential part of any estate plan. The following is a list of three important healthcare documents we, as your estate planning attorneys, can help you prepare:

1. An Advanced Healthcare Directive (or Healthcare Power of Attorney) sets out your wishes for your healthcare and nominates the people you would like to act as agents if you cannot enforce those wishes yourself; and a Living Will provision that allows you to make end-of-life decisions for yourself.

2. The HIPAA Authorization ensures that the people you love and trust will have access to your healthcare status.

3. A Durable Power of Attorney ensures that your agents will have the ability to keep your financial affairs in order while you are unable to care for them yourself.

With a little forethought and planning, you can significantly lessen the damage an unexpected hospital stay can have on your family and your finances. Don’t let fate catch you by surprise; always expect the best, but plan for the worst.