By Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. 

Myth or Fact? I have a health care proxy, so I do not need any other health related legal documents.  

This is a MYTH!  

Having a health care proxy that nominates a trusted person to make health-related decisions for you is a great start to a comprehensive estate plan, but there are two other documents to consider to fully complete your health care planning.  

HIPAA release – HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was a law passed in 1996 to give greater security and privacy to health related information. A HIPAA release is a document that can be standalone or part of your health care proxy. It nominates a trusted person (or persons) to access your protected health information. This can be useful for health care proxies to make health-related decisions, or can simply be used for a loved one to be able to check on your condition when you are in the hospital.  

MOLST form – MOLST stands for Medical Order of Life Sustaining Treatment. This is a form that is actually filled out with your doctor and is not official until they have signed it. This form indicates preferences for certain life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition, artificial hydration, ventilation, and transfers to a hospital. It also includes a portion to indicate that you would like a DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate order. A properly nominated health care proxy can make these decisions on your behalf (except for a DNR), but it’s possible that certain treatments would be implemented prior to the proxy being involved in order to stabilize you and prolong your life. If you feel very strongly about certain health care procedures or if you have a chronic or terminal illness, I encourage you to talk with your doctor about a MOLST form.  

Proper health care documents are just a piece of your estate plan. An elder law attorney can review your health care proxy to ensure that it is comprehensive and includes all the necessary appointments and releases, and advise you as to any other documents that may be needed to complete your estate plan.  


About the Author: Elizabeth A. Caruso, Esq. is an attorney at Legacy Legal Planning, LLC, in Norwell. She has been practicing estate planning, probate, and elder law on the South Shore for more than a decade. If this article has sparked questions for you, please feel free to reach out via phone 781-971-5900 or email to schedule a time to discuss your unique situation.