Many families think of estate planning as only wills and trusts. And in many ways, they are not wrong. Those are two of the more common documents you need to protect everyone you love and everything you own. But comprehensive planning goes well beyond wills and trusts with ancillary estate planning documents designed to cover all your bases and ensure specific plans are carried out.

Below is a list of several ancillary estate planning documents and their purpose. If you have already drafted your will or trust or are just starting the process, explore every avenue for your unique situation.

Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney is an ancillary estate planning document that allows you to appoint someone to make financial decisions if you cannot make those decisions for yourself. For example, if you become incapacitated, the person you name can take care of financial matters for you. A power of attorney may be general or limited. A general power of attorney allows the person you name to do anything financial on your behalf. This authority should only be given to someone you would trust with everything you own. Meanwhile, a limited power of attorney can be limited to certain transactions.

Medical Power of Attorney
Healthcare Power of Attorney or Medical Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you. Perhaps you become too ill or incompetent to make decisions for yourself. If this situation arises, it is nice to know you have ancillary estate planning documents like this in place to manage who can make those decisions for you.

Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates and Do Not Resuscitate
When it comes to making your advanced healthcare decisions known, two important ancillary estate planning documents to have are a Directive to Physicians and a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR). Many people get confused about the difference, so here is a good example: If I have a heart attack, I want you to call 911, and I want them to do CPR. If, after doing CPR, the doctors say that they can put me on a ventilator, but there is no hope of recovery, I do not want to be put on life support. If the doctors say that they can put me on a ventilator, and I may recover, I want to be put on life support in that case. Conversely, a DNR would tell the paramedics not even to perform CPR in the first place. In each instance, the document carefully details my wishes, so there should not be any questions moving forward regarding my care. With that said, each option should be carefully weighed and discussed with your family beforehand.

Organ Donation
An Organ Donation Form allows you to specify what organs you want to donate and for what purposes. Being an organ donor is 100% your choice, but the obvious benefit is the ability to save or enhance someone else’s life.

Emergency Document Card
An Emergency Document Card allows healthcare personnel access to your medical documents in the event of an emergency. It can include everything from the child’s name, allergies, medical conditions, and contact information to their parents’ names and phone numbers, details regarding HIPAA authorizations, and medical power of attorney. This way, doctors can act quickly and do not have to play guessing games with anything. A health emergency card coupled with a Medical Power of Attorney and HIPAA authorization form ensures the doctors can contact family members, gain access to critical health information they may not readily know, discuss medical information with family, and make informed decisions about the next steps.

Authorization for Release of Medical Information
Under the privacy laws of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), medical personnel can go to jail or pay huge fines if they release a patient’s information without permission. An Authorization for Release of Medical Information or HIPAA authorization allows you to specify who can access your private medical information.

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