Planning for the future during COVID-19 involves more than stockpiling toilet paper and cold medicine. Though those things might be nice to have during a time of social distancing and a looming national quarantine, there are two legal documents that could save you and your loved ones in a time of crisis: (1) a Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Declaration of Living Will and (2) a Durable Power of Attorney.
Declaration of Living Will and Power of Attorney for Healthcare
When you become very ill and are no longer able to make decisions for yourself, a Declaration of Living Will can speak for you. This document, drafted when you are healthy and of sound mind, outlines the types of medical procedures and treatments you are wiling to undergo or not willing to undergo when you are essentially on your death bed.
Doctors are tasked with “doing no harm,” in other words keeping you alive at all costs. Perhaps you do not want to be kept alive at all costs, or perhaps you only want to be kept alive under certain circumstances. You can make that choice by executing a Declaration of Living Will.
Often a Declaration of Living Will is combined with a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, also known as a Healthcare Proxy. In this portion of the document, you get to decide who will be tasked with making medical decisions for you. The person you choose will have to follow the parameters that you set out in the document.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney gives the person you designate as your “agent” the ability to manage your financial affairs. Your agent will be able to access your bank accounts and may be able to do things like sell real estate in your name. This can be effective immediately or effective upon your incapacity. This document can be extremely helpful if, for example, you are ill and unable to pay your own bills, manage your business, or do your taxes.
These documents are crucial parts of any comprehensive estate plan. Your estate plan could also include wills, trusts, and business succession planning.
COVID-19 has not only ushered in a lot of uncertainty about the future, but it has provided a unique opportunity for us to discuss that uncertainty with our families and friends. Estate planning is all about managing uncertainty and providing some control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. If you don’t have an estate plan, now is the time to start thinking about it. If you do have an estate plan, now is the time to talk to your family about it.
If you would like talk with a DDH attorney about creating an estate plan or updating your current plan, please contact Natalie Ramm or T.J. Lawhon.