SPRINGFIELD, NJ -- Bob Bernstein, an attorney specializing in Estate Planning and Elder Law, spoke about the importance of obtaining a health care proxy, especially with the medical challenges Americans are currently facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Simply explained, “a health care proxy is a document that says that you have the right to manage someone else’s health care,” Bernstein said. Health care proxies only take effect when a person is unable to make their own decisions, and need to be obtained in advance to ensure consent prior to any medical procedures.  

Bernstein said that family members are under the false impression that they are legally permitted to make health care decisions for each other. In fact, under the federal 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (commonly referred to as HIPAA), Bernstein said, “even between a husband and wife, they cannot manage each other’s health care unless there is something in writing,” he advised. “This is very important, without a health care proxy, you can’t say anything.” 

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Those with aging parents should also obtain a health care proxy should they need to be able to medically intervene on their parents’ behalf, such as requesting a second opinion, green lighting procedures and advocating for better treatment or services. Otherwise, Bernstein said, “you have no authority,” and would not be able to act upon “what you want or maybe what your spouse or parent wanted.”

Bernstein, a former Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and a member of the Elder Law and Disability Section and Trusts and Estate Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. His firm focuses their practice on the areas of Elder Law, Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Special Needs Planning, Guardianship, LGBTQ Estate Planning, Business and Real Estate Law. 

To set up a health care proxy and other family legal documents, Zoom video conferences can be scheduled at this time in order to refrain from face-to-face meetings. To contact Bernstein and read more about his legal practice, visit his firm online at: www.bernsteinestatelaw.com.