Traditional wedding vows include a statement regarding maintaining love and devotion regardless of health. To stay side by side forever is a noble goal for any couple. Also noble is creating a trust-based estate plan which includes health care documents. These documents help couples to act in accordance with their wedding vows by allowing them to prepare for sickness while they still have their health.

People who are considering a revocable living trust are often not aware that health care documents are included in a trust-based estate plan. These documents include the Advance Health Care Directive and the HIPAA Authorization.

The Advance Health Care Directive is similar to a financial power of attorney, but this document relates solely to the decision-making process regarding a person’s health. In this document, a person can name a health care agent (typically their spouse) and also successor agents to act on their behalf when they are not able to make their own health care decisions. Additionally, this document allows a person to make their own decision regarding end-of-life care, which removes this burden from others.

The HIPAA Authorization document grants consent for medical providers to share your information with your health care agent. Protections for medical information were created by the Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act of 1996, thus the name HIPAA. Without this document, your named health care agent would not be able to receive what they would need to make informed decisions and act on your behalf.

Waiting for health to become an issue before creating a trust-based estate plan which includes health care documents is a poor strategy. Health issues that impact a person’s competence will likely mean that the window of opportunity to create an estate plan has closed. Just as the best time to purchase an umbrella is before the rain begins, the best time to complete an estate plan with health care documents is before health becomes an issue.

There are many ways to show love and devotion in a marriage. Preparing for possible difficult times in advance is one such way. Wedding vows are the spoken promise, but actions taken serve to prove that the vow was not merely words. The trust-based estate plan helps a couple to prove that they are truly devoted, in sickness and in health care documents.