It is not unusual for a person in New Jersey to have a chronic illness. Some chronic illnesses, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's will become progressively worse over time and will eventually make it difficult for a person to communicate their wishes or care for themselves. Therefore, it is very important that those with a chronic illness execute an estate plan while they are still able to do so.
While having a will and/or a trust are an important part of any estate plan, people with chronic illnesses will have some special considerations to make when comes to estate planning. For example, they will want to execute a HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Release. A HIPPA Release gives a named person the ability to access your health records. A physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST) can be included in your medical records. It allows your doctors to understand what end of life care you want should an emergency arise.
Living wills are also important for those who have a chronic illness. Living wills dictate what your health care preferences are, as well as how you want to be cared for at the end of your life. Living wills generally are broader than a POLST. Healthcare proxies augment living wills. This document -- also referred to as medical power of attorney -- designates someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated.
Finally, there is a financial power of attorney. This document names someone who will take care of your legal, tax and financial affairs should you become incapacitated. How much control to give the agent in a financial power of attorney should reflect your situation with regards to the progression of your chronic illness.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be distressing. After all, depending on the circumstances you may find that your health is going to decline over time, sometimes rapidly, leaving you alive but incapacitated. Being prepared from the get-go with an estate plan can provide reassurance that when the time comes, your wishes will be followed.