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  1. New style and format
    One of the stated purposes of the revision is to make the form simpler to understand.  It is written at an 8th grade reading level, with less "technical" or "legalistic" language than the old form.  Additionally, there is a rather lengthy Q&A section that answers a series of questions such as:

    •  What are the things I want my health care agent to know?
    •  What kind of decisions can my agent make?
    ​•  Whom should I choose to be my health care agent?

    ​​While this section serves to make the form significantly longer than its predecessor, the answers to provide good information that can help with the decision-making process in designating agents and specifying intentions.
  2. Statutory form qualification
    This qualification states that, unlike under previous laws, "no specific format is required for the statutory health care power of attorney other than the notice must precede the form." This is an interesting change that is probably intended to avoid having a form be rejected, and thus having a person's intentions disregarded, due to edits or errors. However, this "anything goes" language could actually undermine the strength of a statutory form in terms of it relative simplicity in its interpretation by a third party.
  3. Witness restrictions
    The new POA Health specifies who can serve as a witness for the signing of the document.  The new form expands its prohibitions beyond immediate family and those under the age of 18 to include many categories of health care workers who provide services to the principal, such as the attending physician, advanced practice nurse, or mental health provider, as well as any directors or executive officers of the health care facility where the principal is being treated.
  4. Agent restrictions and access to records
    A "Health Care Agent" is the person who is authorized to make health care decisions for the principal, but who is somebody other than the principal's health care provider or any other "health care professional" responsible for administering care to the principal as a patient.

    ​The person who is designated as a Agent is deemed by the new statute to be  a HIPAA-compliant "personal representative." This enables the agent to have access to the patient's medical records, which would have otherwise been off-limits due to privacy restrictions.
  5. Life-sustaining treatment options
    There are some major changes to the new statute in language that is used to address the principal's choices for life-sustaining treatments. One of these changes is the elimination of the definitions of "incurable or irreversible condition," "permanent unconsciousness," and "terminal condition" as trigger points for decisions to be made.  Instead, the agent is instructed to weigh the burdens vs. the benefits of proposed treatment options.  The principal may also, but is not required to, choose between two check-box statements relating to quality of life vs. life extension prioritization.
  6. Agent decision-making timing options
    Another major addition to the new form is the inclusion of a section in which the principal specifies at what point in time the agent can start making decisions on behalf of the principal: either "now," or "only when I cannot make them for myself." Under the statute, the determination of when the principal is no longer able to make decisions is made by the patient's physician.
  7. Existing POA Health remain valid
    As I referenced earlier, even though the new statute requires significant changes to the existing POAH form, earlier versions of the completed form remain valid. There is no urgent need to call your estate planning attorney to update your old POA Health - although of course we would welcome your calls and questions.

New Laws, New Protocols for Real Estate Closings

Starting in August 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's newly required changes to the Integrated Mortgage Disclosures under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (Regulation X) and the Truth In Lending Act (Regulation Z) will go into effect.

"What on earth does that mean for me?" In short, this change will directly and fundamentally impact the protocols involved in closing most types of residential real estate sales. Among other changes, there are new closing documents to replace the current disclosure forms, and changes in the timing of a purchaser's receipt of information about the closing costs.

The intention of these changes is to protect consumers by making the real estate closing process and its associated costs more simple and transparent. The best and clearest explanation of the background and implications of this change that we have found is published by the CFPB and can be read here. Any real estate closings that originate before August 1, 2015 will not be affected. You can rest assured that we are ready to hit the ground running when the changes take effect.

Updated Illinois Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney for Health Care is one of the most important legal documents that you can sign as you plan for your own and your family's future. The purpose of the Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA Health) is to designate an agent to carry out your health care decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. The guidance provided about your decisions can alleviate some of the uncertainty and confusion that inevitably accompanies a medical crisis.

In January 2015, a revised Illinois statute went into effect that simplifies the language and changes the format of the older form. The purpose of the POA Health remains the same. All previously executed POA Health forms are still considered valid under the statute, so you do not need to rush in to change your existing POA Health document if you already have one in place. However, our office is in the process of transitioning to the new form for clients who are initiating or revising estate plans, and I would like to share some information about the changes that will now be in effect.

New regulations for 2015