My family (me, my husband, son, and mom) went to Colorado to visit my sister this summer. Several days into our vacation, my mom was not feeling well and asked to go the emergency room. She was in cardiogenic shock and was life-flighted to another hospital within hours.
Now my mom volunteers at my law firm a few days a week. One of her tasks is to scan documents into our system so that we have easy access to signed copies 24/7 anywhere there is internet access. Mom, however, never scanned her own documents. So there we were in Colorado without any access to her Healthcare Power of Attorney, HIPAA release form, or Living Will.
Thankfully our associate attorney drove to the office at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night to scan and email these documents to us. Yet another story for our seminar circuit.
Estate planning documents only work if the right people have access to them at the time they need them!
If you have already taken the important step to create your estate plan, here are a few simple next steps to make sure your family truly is protected.
- Keep your original documents in a safe place such as a safe deposit box or fire proof box.
- Keep a set of copies either electronically or on paper under a different roof than where you keep the originals.
- Tell your family and/or successor agents that you have created a plan, where you keep the originals, and how to access the originals. (For example: the key to the fire proof box is on a blue key chain in the “junk” drawer.)
- Send an electronic copy of your HealthCare Power of Attorney, Mental HealthCare Power of Attorney, HIPAA Release Form, and Living Will to your successor agents. These are the people who will make medical decisions for you in an emergency and they may not have time to get the originals.
- Carry an emergency card in your wallet or purse listing who to contact in case of emergency. Include all of your successor healthcare agents and their contact phone numbers. If you have pets, consider adding who to call to care for your pets and make sure those individuals have a key or access to your home.
Your planning documents should not be your best kept secret. Learn from my mom’s mistake. Make sure your agents have access to your documents when they need them the most! Trust me, they will be happy you did.