With COVID-19 spreading rapidly, communities and individuals alike are racing to protect themselves and their loved ones. Many of these precautions are simple and short term, such as working with neighbors to deliver groceries while someone is in quarantine. There are also long-term estate planning steps that you can take, however, to keep your loved ones informed and your wishes respected in the face of the virus.
Mental or physical disability can happen to any of us in the best of times, and it’s something we ask all of our clients to consider when they begin the estate planning process. Thorough disability planning documents may cover some of the scenarios threatened by the current pandemic, such as long-term hospital care or the control of your loved ones. Still, with the onset of social distancing and subsequent rapid changing of social norms, there might now be unique circumstances that would not have seemed relevant even for those with thorough plans in place. As mentioned above, for example, most of us are only recently communicating our wishes in the event of quarantine, or contemplating the priority of non-viral health complications in the event of overwhelmed hospital scenarios. Below are a few simple healthcare directives that can help you, your doctor, and your loved ones understand one another.
A living will is a set of instructions for your healthcare provider in the event of your incapacity. Your living will should express the medical procedures that most reflect your values when you are unconscious, comatose, or otherwise incapable of communicating your wishes to your doctor. Would you prefer invasive procedures, such as mechanical ventilators or CPR, or to issue a Do Not Resuscitate Order? To what extent should painkillers and other palliative care be applied? Do you wish to be an organ donor?
Please note that a living will is an entirely separate document from your Last Will and Testament, and is intended only as a set of instructions for your health care provider.
Power of Attorney
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there are some situations that even the most thorough living willI cannot predict. For this reason, in conjunction with a living will, you can also assign a healthcare power of attorney power of attorney to ensure that the above medical decisions are respected. It’s important that you designate a power of attorney who both understands your medical wishes and can be readily accessible in the event of an emergency.
Your health care power of attorney should be durable, which means that there should be language in your disability planning documents stating that the agent will continue to have authority throughout your incapacity. Your healthcare power of attorney does not have to be the same agent as your financial power of attorney, although they certainly can be.
For Those Who Already Have Disability Planning
If you’re a CARE plan member through our office, you can find your documents in the smartvaults. If you don’t know how to access these documents, or are unsure whether these documents cover some of the above scenarios, call or email us today so that we can help you.