Senior couple signing a HIPAA release with an estate lawyer

The Importance of Signing a HIPAA Release During Estate Planning

Law Office of Rodney Gould June 7, 2024

Estate planning is so much more than just about thinking about what happens after you're gone. A comprehensive estate plan can protect you and your assets should you become incapacitated and unable to manage your affairs on your own.

There are various estate planning tools that help maintain control over your medical care despite incapacity, including an advance directive. However, your plan for incapacity may not be complete without you signing a HIPAA release while you still can. A HIPAA authorization form is one of the most overlooked components of an estate plan, even though it allows select individuals to access your personal health records.  

Not sure if you need a HIPAA release as part of your estate plan? Consider speaking with an attorney. Rodney Gould is committed to providing trusted legal counsel to individuals and families in Los Angeles, California, regarding estate planning matters.  

Reach out to Law Office of Rodney Gould if you want to discuss whether or not you need a HIPAA release and, if you do, get help in preparing a HIPAA authorization form.  

What Is HIPAA Authorization and How Does It Work?

HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which was created by the U.S Congress in 1996. This federal law established policies and procedures for maintaining privacy and security of sensitive patient health information.  

Specifically, HIPAA prevents the disclosure of protected health information (PHI) from healthcare organizations without patients' consent. 

This HIPAA rule prevents other people – even your spouse and other loved ones – from accessing your PHI if (a) they don’t have your explicit consent through a HIPAA authorization and (b) you are incapacitated to grant them that access.  

In other words, should you lose your capacity, your loved ones will not have access to your medical records and your doctors could refuse to share your health information with them.  

A HIPAA authorization form (commonly referred to as a HIPAA release) allows covered entities to disclose a person’s protected health information to select individuals for purposes not otherwise permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. However, to be valid, your HIPAA release must meet specific requirements — but more on that later.  

Reasons You Need to Sign a HIPAA Release for Your Estate Plan

If you are in the process of setting up an estate plan or already have one, you need to know why a HIPAA authorization is an integral part of estate planning. Some of the reasons to sign a HIPAA release for estate planning purpose include:  

  • To provide access to the person you appoint as your agent in an advance directive. If you have an advance directive and appoint a person (known as the agent) to make health care decisions on your behalf, you want them to have access to all your medical records to be able to make informed decisions without delay.  

  • To allow your family members to get your medical expenses paid. If you become incapacitated, you will not be able to pay your medical expenses yourself. Without access to your protected health information, your loved ones will not have a full picture of your condition and treatment and won’t be able to manage your medical bills effectively.  

  • To receive proper care at the nursing home facility. If you ever need to enter a nursing home or another long-term care facility in the future, you want the facility to have access to your protected health information to provide you with proper care.  

Okay, I get it, I need a HIPAA authorization form, but who should I grant access to my medical records?”  

With a HIPAA authorization, you can name select individuals who will have access to your protected health information. This could be anyone you would want to be able to see your medical records. At a minimum, these should be the people you named in your estate planning documents like your executor (personal representative) and the person designated in your advance directive.  

The Requirements of a HIPAA Authorization Form

As mentioned earlier, a HIPAA release must meet specific requirements to be considered valid. It’s not good enough to simply write “HIPAA authorization” on a sheet of paper, include the names of those you want to have access to your PHI, and sign it. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), a HIPAA release is valid if it contains:  

  • A meaningful and complete description of the health information that should be disclosed;  

  • The name of the person(s) who is entitled to access the information in question;  

  • An expiration date or expiration “event”;  

  • A description of the purpose of disclosure;  

  • The signature of the individual whose health information would be disclosed or the signature of their personal representative; 

  • The date when the release form is signed.  

To ensure that your HIPAA authorization form will be accepted by hospitals and doctors, you might want to have the release prepared by an attorney. Your attorney will also advise you regarding other estate planning matters to ensure that everything is in order and works as intended.  

Discuss HIPAA Authorization and Other Estate Planning Matters With an Attorney

It’s never too early to start organizing your affairs and planning for the uncertainties of life. Rodney Gould is an estate planning attorney with over 30 years of experience who provides diligent and solutions-focused representation to clients.  

If you have any questions about a HIPAA release or other matters related to estate planning, schedule a free consultation today.