Third Quarter 2019
Angela N. Manz. Lawyer for Life - Keeping Your Family Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

In This Issue

The HIPAA Release: What It is and Why You Need One


Estate Planning Basics: An Introduction to Trusts


Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children

The HIPAA Release: What It is and Why You Need One

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) established national standards to protect the privacy of personal medical information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets limits and conditions on the way such information can be used and disclosed in the absence of patient authorization. The rule also provides patients with additional rights regarding their medical information, including the right to examine and obtain a copy of their health records and to request corrections to these records.


Most of us would agree that our medical information should be kept private. However, HIPAA is an example of a well-intentioned law that has led to unintended consequences and potential problems for patients and their families. Why? The penalties associated with violating HIPAA--which include civil fines, criminal penalties, and even imprisonment--often make health care providers extremely cautious about sharing medical information with anyone other than their patient. This can include spouses, children, and other close family members.


The result is that your loved ones might not be able to get information about your condition in a medical emergency. Imagine the stress and frustration your loved ones would experience if you were hospitalized and they could not obtain details about your condition, treatment, and prognosis. Similarly, you could be denied the love and support of the people closest to you at the very time you need them the most.


The good news is that there is an estate planning tool capable of helping you and your family avoid such a scenario. A HIPAA Release allows you to authorize the release of your medical information to people of your choosing. With a properly drafted and implemented HIPAA Release, health care providers will be far more likely to share information about your condition with your loved ones in a medical emergency. Which in turn will help ensure that your loved ones are able to support you in your hour of need.


Estate Planning Basics: An Introduction to Trusts

Perhaps you have heard about trusts but wonder exactly what they are and what they can help you accomplish. Simply put, a trust is an agreement outlining how assets will be managed and held for the benefit of another person. There are many types of trusts, capable of addressing a wide range of concerns and accomplishing a number of important goals. Let's begin our discussion by looking at the elements and terminology shared by most trusts.

The Grantor

All trusts have a grantor (also known as a trustor or settlor). The grantor is the person who creates the trust and has the legal authority to transfer property held in the trust.

The Beneficiary

The beneficiary is the person who "benefits" from the trust. A beneficiary can be one person or a number of different parties. A beneficiary can also be an institution, such as a charity.

The Trustee

The trustee is the individual (or in some cases, the institution) authorized to take title to property on behalf of a beneficiary. The trustee is responsible for managing the property according to the rules described in the trust document. Additionally, the trustee must act and make decisions based on the best interests of the trust's beneficiaries.

Trust Funding

For a trust to accomplish its goals, it must be funded by the grantor. "Funding a trust" refers to the process of transferring ownership of assets from the grantor to the trust. These assets can include money, real estate, stocks, jewelry, and more. It is important to note that assets "outside" the trust are not controlled by the trust.

Revocable versus Irrevocable Trusts

A revocable trust is a trust that can be altered by the grantor during his or her lifetime.


An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, is a trust that cannot be changed by the grantor (except under extraordinary circumstances). In the case of irrevocable trusts, the grantor typically foregoes total control of the property and must obey all trust rules and guidelines. Furthermore, a trust can be revocable during the grantor's lifetime and then become irrevocable upon the grantor's death.


When most people use the word "trust" in the context of estate planning, a revocable living trust is the one they have in mind.


A revocable living trust allows you to maintain complete control over your assets while you are alive and after you have passed away. You don't have to transfer your assets to the trust all at once. You can do so over time and even add to the trust as you acquire new assets.


Other benefits of a revocable living trust include:

  • Avoiding probate. The probate process is time-consuming, needlessly expensive and exposes your assets and estate to public scrutiny
  • It can be changed over time, to compensate for changes in your financial and family situation
  • Basic wills can lead to disagreements among family members. A revocable living trust can help eliminate challenges to the will and ensure beneficiaries receive what you have intended for them
  • It allows for ongoing financial management. As your wealth accumulates, so too will assets in the trust

One of the questions frequently asked by clients is whether or not they need a trust. The answer depends on the client's unique needs and goals. Would you benefit from a trust? We'd be happy to discuss the matter with you at your earliest convenience.

Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children

If something terrible happened to you and your spouse, what would become of your children? It's not something anyone wants to think about, but think about it we must. By naming a guardian for your minor children, you can help ensure they will be raised according to your wishes. The question is, how do you choose the proper guardian? Here are several factors to consider.

The Ability and Willingness of the Guardian to Serve

Will the prospective guardian be able to meet the physical and economic demands of raising a child? Even more important, is the prospective guardian willing to serve in the first place? The last thing you want to do is name a guardian before speaking at length with the person you have in mind.

Values

Ideally, the prospective guardian will share your child-rearing philosophy, values, views on education, religious beliefs, and other fundamental principles.

Geography

If the prospective guardian lives in another state, moving there might be too drastic a change for your child, particularly an older child.

The Guardian's Family

If the potential guardian has children of his or her own, would your child get along with them? And would the guardian be able to give your child enough attention in a busy household?

The Age of Your Children

If your children are older and relatively mature, you may want to seek their input before naming a guardian.


Through proper planning, you can ensure your children will be raised according to your wishes in the event you cannot raise them yourself.