Documents You Need Before You Die: Health Records

March 2015

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Life is a precious gift.

While youth often convinces us that we will live forever, there will come a time for us to leave this physical world. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family when you pass on is to have your affairs in order.

Throughout this series, we will review the documents we suggest having safely stored—but accessible—in order to make the complicated process that comes with losing a loved one easier to navigate for your loved ones and charities.

In this installment, we focus on the health records you need to compile.

To view an infographic summary of all the 30 Documents You Need Before You Die, click here.

At different stages of your life, you’ll have different contents in your life documents, but if you have control over any types of accounts or property—tangible, fiscal or digital—you already have at least some of these documents which represent who you are, the life you’ve lived, and the assets and liabilities that you own.

We encourage you, whether you need to pull together just a few documents, or a long lifetime of documents, that you compile, track, and take thorough notes. The process is simplified if you track as you go rather than doing a large amount at one time.  Once you’ve compiled these necessary documents, try to maintain your hard work.

It can be helpful for many to discuss these items with whomever would be responsible for administering your estate in depth so that they know what you have, where it’s kept and what your wishes are.[i]

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As a first step, we highly recommend printing out your own copy of the Peace of Mind Checklist we’ve provided and filling it out thoroughly. This tool is for you to use to simplify the process for all of these very important life documents.

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Health Records

Personal and Family Medical History
You will reference your medical history more often than your realize over the history of your lifetime. We recommend keeping a dated ledger of important medications, allergies, and procedures along with the names of the physicians who have performed them. It is especially helpful to include medication dosages, dates of procedures and office contact information. It is also helpful to notate whom you list on your HIPA forms when you visit a physician’s office. You will be incredibly grateful to yourself that you kept this simple, but valuable ledger.

Durable Health-Care Power of Attorney
A power of attorney form allows your designated loved one to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not able to. Without one, your family will have to go to the courts to appoint a guardian during a very difficult time.

Authorization to Release Health Care Information
This will allow health care professionals to speak with and give full disclosure to your designated family member or loved one about your medical conditions, needs, or medical bills. It is extremely important that you occasionally check the records of the physicians that attend to you.  As information in the health care industry transfers over from paper to digital, medical offices can improperly upload your information. Be vigilant in knowing whom your physicians have listed on your behalf and for any dependents under your care.

Living Will
A living will dictates your wishes for medical decisions in order to keep you alive should you be in an accident or medical emergency. Some things that should be included in this are your opinions on resuscitation, organ donation, mechanical ventilation, etc.

Do-Not-Resuscitate Order
This is often an emotional topic so we recommend proactively discussing what your intentions are while you are healthy and discussing any changes in your wishes should you become seriously ill. It’s often helpful to the survivors left with this responsibility to express why you are making the choice. It is a way you can support them emotionally as they live with the responsibility of this important final say.

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Essential Documents You Need Before You Die:
The Basics

Assets & Ownership

Banking & Investments

Retirement Planning & Insurance

If you’d like to view the full list of documents you need before you die, click here to read our infographic.

This series is based off “The 25 Documents You Need Before You Die,” by the Wall Street Journal, originally published July 2, 2011.

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