With no end in sight for the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to consider having your estate plan in order. Unlike wills and trusts, however, you should also be concerned with documents that are in effect while you are alive such as powers of attorney and health care directives.
Power of Attorney
As a brief introduction, a power of attorney is a document designed to allow you to name an agent or someone who can act for you if you are not able to act on your own behalf. This frequently comes up where someone has suffered a serious illness or trauma and can no longer provide for their own decision-making. If you have ever read any of our previous blogs concerning guardianships (such as The Battle Between a Power of Attorney and Guardianship! Which one is right for you? or I Have Been Appointed Guardian, Now What?) then you already know that a power of attorney is designed to allow someone you name to make essentially all your non-medical decisions for you (financial, residential, legal, etc.). In this manner, a power of attorney on the front-end of an issue can save the need to apply for the costly and time-consuming guardianship process. An easy take away is to think of a power of attorney as the less expensive and less burdensome substitute for having a guardian appointed. So why do we care?
Unfortunately, COVID-19 appears to be affecting individuals differently. Individuals who are relatively healthy may experience little to no symptoms, while other healthy individuals may end up becoming quite ill. In addition, individuals who are already sick appear to experience mild to life-threatening issues when they have contracted COVID-19.
While each of us has no way of knowing whether we will contract COVID-19 or how serious our symptoms will be, we can all benefit from the peace of mind that we are prepared should anything unfortunate happen to us. It’s as simple as that: get a power of attorney drafted. Are we done? Not quite.
Health Care Directive
While the power of attorney provides for all your non-medical needs should you be unable to make decisions for yourself, you still need something to address your medical requests and needs. Enter the health care directive. The health care directive allows you to explain who you want to serve as your health care agent and make medical decisions for you if you cannot make such decisions for yourself. Common examples of health care decisions you can provide guidance on are how/whether you want to receive life-supporting treatment, how/whether you want to receive nutrition and hydration, your requests concerning organ donation, and any specific end of life instructions such as cremation or burial. With a power of attorney and a health care directive, you will be well on your way to take whatever 2020 can throw at us (except maybe the Australia fires or the murder hornets!)
If you need help getting your power of attorney or health care directive, please contact us!