|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.
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.
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.