Chronic illness affects more than 130 million Americans. However, many families in Massachusetts dealing with conditions like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s don’t reflect this reality in their estate plans. As a person ages, their chances of being impacted by chronic illness rises quickly, but people of all ages should account for present and possible conditions in an estate plan. This means including provisions for a variety of issues related to health and aging.

A very important document for families dealing with a chronic illness is a HIPAA release. The person named in this release will be able to access protected health information that would normally be sealed. This allows family members or other trusted parties to make crucial health care-related decisions for someone suffering from cognitive impairments. This release needs to be in writing, and the person giving away their protections to another party needs to show that they are doing so voluntarily.

Another important document is a living will. This describes the estate owner’s wishes going forward should they be unable to communicate their desires at some point. Decisions can be related to everything from health care objectives to long-term care provisions. It should account for both current chronic illnesses the person may be experiencing as well as possible other health problems that might occur.

An estate planning lawyer could help a client draft releases, living wills and other documents. After establishing short- and long-term objectives with the client, legal counsel will want to make sure those objectives are communicated in legally enforceable documents. A lawyer can also help the client make document modification when their circumstances change.