What’s a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Why Do I Need One?

Many people think of estate planning as what happens after you die. Estate planning is much more than that. Estate planning is about planning for the future and all its unknowns. It requires you to think about and plan for things like accidents, medical emergencies, long term illnesses, and all sorts of things that could lead to disability or incapacity. You can’t predict the future, but you can plan for it!

One of the most important documents to help you plan for the future is the Designation of Health Care Surrogate (DHCS). Through a DHCS you name someone to make health care decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. This person will also have access to your health care information through a companion document called a HIPAA release. These documents work together to ensure that whoever you pick has the knowledge and ability to make medical decisions the way you would have. Essentially, they give you a voice when you wouldn’t otherwise have one. This is a document I recommend all my clients have as part of their estate plans.

If you have a minor that’s turning 18 soon, A DHCS is a document you should talk to them about. As soon as they turn 18 you lose all access to their medical records and medical decisions. That’s because at 18 you’re legally and adult. This is a crucial document if something happens to them, and decisions need to be made quickly. A DHCS together with a HIPAA release will let you access their medical records, speak with their doctors, and make medical decisions for them if they can’t do it themselves.  A DHCS is also helpful if your 18-year-old, like many 18 year olds, still wants your help talking to their doctor, making appointments, and keeping track of their medical history.  

If you have a child under 18 you should consider a DHCS for them. This works essentially the same as a DHCS for an adult. The difference is you’re naming someone to make health care decisions regarding your children if you are unable to do so. Why would you need to do that? Let’s say you’re on vacation and you leave your child with your parents. What happens if they need to take your child to the emergency room and they can’t reach you? They have no legal authority to make decisions for your child. That’s where the DHCS comes in. If they can’t reach you they’re equipped with a legal document that gives them authority to make decisions quickly when time is of the essence. That can make a world of difference if your child were to suddenly become seriously ill or injured!

Are you in a committed relationship but not married? A DHCS lets you to name your partner as the person in charge of your medical decisions. Without this document, your partner would have to petition the court to become your agent, a process that can be time consuming and expensive. Additionally, a court is likely to name your next of kin as your agent which could be a parent, child, or sibling. If you want to make sure your partner, who probably knows you best, is your agent, a DCSH is the way to go.  

The Designation of Health Care Surrogate is an important part of any estate plan. It’s something you should have to protect yourself and those you care about. If you have questions about the DHCS or want to draft one for you or your loved ones, set up a free 15-minute initial call or 1-hour complementary initial consultation by clicking here: www.igslegal.com or email me at [email protected].

Please note this article is not intended as legal advice. For that you need to consult an attorney.

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