Why Signing a HIPAA Release is Important in Estate Planning 

Law Office of Geoffrey Fong Sept. 22, 2022

Doctor shows HIPAA sign boardContrary to popular belief, estate planning is not just about writing a will to spell out your wishes for the distribution of assets. Estate planning is also about preparing for sudden and unexpected events that may leave you incapacitated.  

A HIPAA release is one of the most overlooked tools when preparing an estate plan. However, signing a HIPAA release as part of an estate plan is crucial to ensure that your family members can access your confidential medical records if something happens to you.  

The estate planning attorney at the Law Office of Geoffrey Fong helps clients in Rocklin, California, and surrounding areas plan for the future and prepare the necessary documents for a comprehensive estate plan. With an office in Rocklin, the law firm proudly serves clients in Citrus Heights, Folsom, Roseville, and neighboring areas.  

Understanding HIPAA  

Many people create an advance directive and power of attorney to name a person who would make medical decisions on their behalf when they become unable to make decisions on their own. However, in the absence of a HIPAA release, those legal documents may not be effective.  

The term “HIPAA” refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996. Under the Act, healthcare providers cannot share confidential medical records without the patient’s permission.  

Signing a HIPAA release allows patients to bypass the restrictions created by the HIPAA. Without a HIPAA release, medical providers may refuse to release protected health information (PHI) related to:  

  • The patient’s medical conditions 

  • The type of treatment provided to the patient 

  • The payments made while receiving medical care 

The HIPAA prohibits medical providers from disclosing a patient’s PHI unless the patient signs a HIPAA authorization, which is also known as a HIPAA release.  

Why It’s Important in Estate Planning  

Signing a HIPAA release is important in estate planning because it ensures that the people you trust and care about will have access to your confidential medical records and can communicate with healthcare providers about your medical care. Without a HIPAA release, your doctor and other healthcare providers may refuse to talk to your family members or give them updates about your medical condition. Thus, including a HIPAA release in your estate plan can be beneficial for adults of any age.  

Why Would You Need to Disclose Your Protected Health Information?  

Some people may wonder, “Why would I need to disclose my protected health information?” Signing a HIPAA release to allow named individuals to access your medical records is critical to ensure that your loved ones can communicate with your doctors and medical providers about your condition and treatment. Without a HIPAA release, your family members may be left in the dark about your condition and would not be able to make medical decisions on your behalf.  

Things to Know About Signing a HIPAA Release 

The HIPAA allows patients to authorize the release of their protected health information by signing the so-called HIPAA release. However, the patient must sign a HIPAA release while they are still of sound mind and have the capacity to do so. Otherwise, the release will not be valid. A HIPAA release must also meet other requirements to be valid: 

  • The release is in writing and written in plain language. 

  • The release includes the patient’s signature and the date when the document was signed. 

  • The document identifies the information that can be disclosed and the parties with whom the information can be shared. 

  • The document comes with an expiration date/event. 

  • The document clearly states that the patient has the right to revoke the HIPAA authorization. 

  • The document includes the patient’s acknowledgment that their protected health information may be redisclosed by the named individuals. 

Consider contacting a knowledgeable estate planning attorney if you need help signing a HIPAA release when preparing an estate plan. An attorney will help ensure that your confidential medical records are accessible to the individuals you name in the release.  

Seek Trusted Legal Guidance  

The estate planning attorney at the Law Office of Geoffrey Fong assists clients with HIPAA authorizations in Rocklin, California, and the surrounding areas. Seek legal guidance to discuss why signing a HIPAA release is important for your estate plan and ensure that you sign a valid document to ensure that your protected health information is released according to your wishes. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about HIPAA authorizations.