COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advance Healthcare Directives

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country, doctors across the nation are joining lawyers in urging Americans to create the proper estate planning documents, so medical providers can better coordinate an individual’s care should they become hospitalized with the virus.

For many people, this can seem like a daunting task to choose how and what they want for medical treatment if something were to happen to them, and who they would want to make those decisions on their behalf. As there are so many unknowns, it can be hard to think about this subject and decide how you want to be taken care of – which is why we are here to help walk you through creating advance healthcare directives for you and your family.

The most critical planning tools for this purpose are the medical power of attorney and a living will, which are advance healthcare directives that work together to describe your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event you are unable to express your own wishes. In light of COVID-19, even those who have already created these documents should revisit them to ensure they are up-to-date and address specific scenarios related to the coronavirus.

While all adults over age 18 should put these documents in place as soon as possible, if you are over age 60 or have a chronic underlying health condition, the need is particularly urgent. Contact us right away if you or anyone in your family needs these documents created. We are here to help you and your loved ones stay protected during this time.

Advance Directives

A medical power of attorney is an advance directive that allows you to name a person, known as your “agent”, to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself. For example, if you are hospitalized with COVID-19 and need to be placed in a medically induced coma, this person would have the legal authority to advise doctors about your subsequent medical care.

If you become incapacitated without a medical power of attorney, physicians will generally look to someone in your family to make these decisions for you. If there is no dispute between your family members, that may work. However, if there is a dispute or if no family can be located, they may ask the court to appoint a legal guardian to be the decision-maker. In either case, the person given this responsibility could be someone you may not want to have power over such life or death decisions—and that’s why having medical power of attorney is so important.

While a medical power of attorney names who can make health-care decisions in the event of your incapacity, a living will explains how your care should be handled, particularly at the end of life. For example, if you should become seriously ill and unable to manage your own treatment, a living will can guide your agent to make medical decisions on your behalf.

These decisions could include if and when you want life support removed, and whether you would want hydration and nutrition if that was the only thing keeping you alive. To ensure your medical treatment is handled in exactly the way you want and prevent your family from undergoing needless stress and conflict during an already trying time, it is vital that you document what you want in a living will.

Keep Your Directives Updated

Even if you’ve already created advanced directives, now is the perfect time to review the documents to ensure they still match your wishes and circumstances. For instance, is the agent named in your medical power of attorney still the individual you would want to make these decisions? Has your health changed in ways that might affect your living will’s instructions? Are your values and wishes regarding end-of-life still the same?

What’s more, whether you are creating new documents or updating your old ones, you should keep COVID-19 in mind. The highly contagious and life-threatening nature of the coronavirus is something medical providers have never dealt with before, and it has strained our nation’s healthcare system to the breaking point. It is in your best interest to protect yourself now, before you or one of your family members gets sick.

Coronavirus Considerations

In light of COVID-19, there are a few unique circumstances you need to be aware of when drafting these documents to ensure all of the potential scenarios related to the coronavirus and its treatment have been properly addressed.

1. Don’t do it yourself: While you can find a wide selection of generic, advance-directive documents online, you shouldn’t trust these do-it-yourself forms to adequately address such critical decisions. This is especially true during the ongoing pandemic when doctors are constantly tasked with making highly difficult and uncertain decisions for patients suffering from this deadly new virus.

When it comes to your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you have unique needs and wishes that just can’t be anticipated by fill-in-the-blank documents. To ensure your directives are specifically tailored to suit your unique situation, you must work with experienced planning professionals like us to create—or at the very least, review—your medical power of attorney and living will.

2. Open lines of communication: Because COVID-19 is so contagious, family members of those who’ve contracted the virus are often not allowed to accompany them to the hospital. This means your agent likely won’t be there in person to make your treatment decisions. While most advance directives give your agent broad authority to communicate with your medical providers, the documents may not explicitly authorize certain types of remote communication that have become necessary with the COVID-19 crisis.

To remedy this, you may want to consider adding language to your directives expressly authorizing your agent to give directions by phone, Zoom, email, Skype, FaceTime, and other methods. To facilitate this communication, you should bring copies of your directives with you to the hospital to give your doctors, and ensure your agent (and any alternate agents named) have updated copies on-hand as well.

We can guide you to make informed, educated, and empowered choices to protect yourself and the ones you love most – especially in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session.

__________

This article is a service of Cris Carter Law, LLC. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Who Would Care For Your Children If You Get Sick with COVID-19?

The pandemic is causing us to consider things that we may not have considered before. While COVID-19 has been devastating to many people, it has also reminded us to not turn our backs on things that are important to us.

It brings to mind something a friend of mine shared recently. My friend told me that recently after her husband and she were at dinner, she had left her small children with a babysitter. As she sat there at dinner, a thought crept into her head that she couldn’t let go of.

“What would happen to her kids, she thought, if she and her husband got into a car accident on the way home?”

Even though my client had a will naming guardians for her kids if she died, she didn’t know what would happen if she only became ill and didn’t die. She was right to be concerned because in order for the guardian provision in a will to be effective, you have to be dead. You see, a will only has effect after you die. It does not have any validity to effect things during your lifetime. That is a significant gap I see in estate plans all the time because people don’t realize that a will only takes effect after they die. Luckily for my friend, it was that thought at dinner that spurred her to take action; it was that thought that caused her to contact me and ask what would happen to her children if she and her husband only had a will naming a guardian for her children.

If you’d like to read the book she wrote as a result of her own discoveries, it’s called “Wear Clean Underwear: A Fast, Fun, Friendly—and Essential—Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents. ” It’s a book on legal planning for families. We’d love to send it to you as our gift. Simply email us at ClientServices@CrisCarterLaw.com or call us at (719) 434-0000 and ask for your free copy, and we’ll send it your way.

One thing you’ll discover in the book is that even naming a legal guardian in your will is often not enough to keep your kids out of the care of strangers, or someone you wouldn’t want to care for your children, if something happens to you.

Chances of COVID-19 Infection in the Family

If you are young and healthy, it might be hard to imagine that you won’t be there to care for your kids. But if the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us anything, it’s that even a healthy person can contract a serious illness that leaves them incapacitated and unable to care for their children.

If there is more than one adult in the house, that may alleviate some of your worries. While naming legal guardians for your kids may feel especially urgent for a single parent, parents with partners aren’t off the hook. You should take precautions though, especially since there are high infection rates among people who live in the same household.

A professor at the University of Florida has found a more than 19% chance that someone else in the household of a person infected with COVID-19 will also contract the disease. Researchers estimate the average incubation time is about four days and a person could be infectious for up to two weeks before they know they have the virus. That means that you and your partner could both contract the illness at the same time.

An Easy Way to Find Guardians for Your Children

Even if you never contract COVID-19, you are, of course, still human and vulnerable to accidents and other dangers that could separate you from your kids—either temporarily or permanently.

Weeks prior, we referred to one way to handle parental guilt: naming temporary and permanent legal guardians for your children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to give you a guilt trip right now! But I am encouraging you to take action if you haven’t already. And, if you are having a difficult time deciding who to name as legal guardians for your children, we can even help you make the right decisions.

Officially answering the question of who will care for your kids if you can’t—even for a short time—is one of the best things you can do right now. It is a real, concrete way you can protect your kids during this scary season of our lives. We’ve made it as easy as possible for you to get it done quickly, so you can have peace of mind that your kids’ future is secure no matter what happens.

If you need help with the process, please do give us a call and we’ll be glad to walk you through it.

__________

This article is a service of Cris Carter Law. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.

Three Unique Ways to Handle the Guilt Inherent in Being a Parent

If you’re a parent, you may feel even more guilt than usual. If so, you are definitely not alone. Currently, the burden is on you to both carry on with your work and manage your child’s full-time care and education. Two full-time jobs that you’re trying to do by yourself, likely without teachers or care providers to help you.

If you are like most parents, you were probably struggling with guilt even before the virus. You simply can’t make it to every award ceremony or recital, and you might not have as much time to play with your kids or help them with their homework as you’d like. Those feelings of guilt may now be compounded by all the additional responsibilities you’ve had to take on in a short space of time.

Take a deep breath, and let me let you off the hook here for a minute. I have no doubt you are doing the best you can, and your kids see it, and know it too, even when they are being ungrateful pains in the rear.

I’ve got a few ideas about how to shift the guilt. They’re a little unconventional, but I invite you to give them a try and then message me to let me know how they went. We love hearing from you.

Let’s start with one thing that is fully within your control, can help to alleviate feelings that you are not doing enough, and that you can get handled easily, for free, right now – name legal guardians for your kids, so the people you want will take care of them, if anything happens to you.

Quality Time By Doing Nothing

While you’re probably already spending a significant amount of time with your kids, it may not be very high quality. But you may be too tired or overwhelmed to plan big activities, or the things you used to do for “quality time” may not be available.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Nothing.

Yes, you read that right, nothing. If you can take 15 minutes or so out of your day and do nothing with your child, it could be the best 15 minutes you spend with them, and with yourself, all day. Maybe you’ll even be able to stretch it to 30, 45 or 60 minutes of nothing. It’s truly one of the best gifts you can give to your kids, and the best part is you don’t have to do anything.

We hope this idea provides some relief from the guilt. You don’t have to do as much as you think. Mostly, your kids really just want to know you are there, and will give them your full attention, without screens, even if they aren’t paying attention to you.

Name Legal Guardians

If you have not already legally documented who you would want to raise your children, do it now. Legally documenting your choices for who you want to take care of your kids is a great first step to getting legal planning in place for the people you love. (Yes, I said “choices” because you want to name at least one person with two alternates.) And, doing so can provide you with a lot of relief, if you have not taken care of this yet for your kids.

So that’s one way to remove some of that mom or pop guilt you may have. And, here’s another…

Talk About It

If you’re on an emotional roller-coaster right now, your kids are probably having some similar struggles. This is an opportunity to connect with them, and a good time to show them a little vulnerability of your own. Remember how important sharing words of love and comfort can be, both to them and to you.

A friend of mine has three kids ranging from eight to fourteen, and she recently told me a story about a very special conversation with one of her children. After my friend had spent a few weeks juggling school, work responsibilities, and a million other household duties, she was feeling worn out and discouraged.

Then she took a quiet moment to just sit around and talk with her tween daughter and share some of what was going on for her, that it was hard, and how she was making it through. Out of the blue, to my friend’s surprise and gratitude, her child gave her a big hug and said, “You do so much to take care of us all the time. That must be so hard. Thank you.”

This special moment filled my friend’s heart, and it has gotten her through some tough days. And it never would have happened if she hadn’t taken a little time out to just talk with her kid, without a particular agenda.

Reach out for Support

If you have been feeling really alone and need support, reach out for help. Sometimes venting to your friends is enough, and chances are they’ll be able to relate! But if you are not getting the support you need, there are professionals who will communicate via phone and even text message. You can find local therapists and phone, video, and online therapists through Psychology Today’s directory.

Or, if family dynamics are rearing their head during these stressful times, and you want to keep your family out of court and conflict, your estate plan would go a long way towards relieving those stressors. Give us a call to see how we can help.

___________

This article is a service of Cris Carter Law. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.