COVID: Are Your Estate Planning Documents Ready?
While you're home with your family during COVID, now is a great time to address your estate planning documents. If you don't have them, please get them. If you have them, please review them. Here are some considerations to discuss with your lawyer (and yes, please use a lawyer):
There are three health care documents: Living Will, Health Care Proxy, and Power of Attorney. Please make sure you have them all:
1) A Living Will states your wishes regarding life support in the event that you are in a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma and cannot communicate your wishes.
Considerations: does yours have prohibition against intubation. This is common and in the era of COVID, are you sure this is your desire? Not wanting to live in a vegetative state is different than using a ventilator for COVID treatment. Make sure your Living Will allows for that distinction.
2) A Health Care Proxy is an advance medical directive in the form of a legal document that designates another person (a proxy) to make health care decisions in case a person is rendered incapable of making his or her wishes known.
Considerations: does yours allow for remote decisions making in the era of COVID? Your often not allowed at the hospital due to COVID. Your Health Care Proxy should allow for the possibility (or a family member unable to travel to your bedside outside of COVID). Your lawyer can also include an indemnification for the doctor allowing him/her to adhere to it.
3) A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your property, financial, or medical affairs if you become unable to do so. However, all POAs are not created equal. Each type gives your attorney-in-fact (the person who will be making decisions on your behalf) a different level of control.
Considerations: Most states (not Florida) allow for a Springing Power of Attorney. This means once you're confirmed as disabled, the individuals named in your document can now make decisions for you. Many SPOAs require 1-2 doctor's signatures providing your disabled. In the era of COVID, how likely is it to obtain this from 1 doctor, let alone 2, when they're working in a 'war zone' situation? Consider having a Durable Power of Attorney which is effective now.
Also consider remote approval transactions for the same reasons discussed above. Banks may not allow for this, but having that option within the document at least provides your agent a chance.
Considerations for ALL:
Who are the people named in these documents? Is it your exes family member? A deceased sibling? Are you children now old enough to take responsibilities outlined in these documents?
Do the people named in those documents know your CURRENT wishes? If it was executed 20 years ago, do you still have the same feelings?
Everything outlined above has pros and cons, and it's important to discuss them all with your attorney. I cannot emphasize this enough....discuss them with an individual. The online documents could perhaps assist in a pinch, but truly you should be working with a family lawyer.