The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the entire world. No wonder—it’s a frightening disease that experts are just beginning to understand. Many of us are asking ourselves: Am I ready for a worst-case scenario? Anyone who does not have the health care portion of their estate plan in order, needs to address it now, says the timely article “COVID-19 crisis highlights the importance of completing advance directives” from Cincinnati.com.
The topic of an advance directive used to be introduced with a question about what would happen if a person were in a car accident, rushed to the hospital and unable to convey their wishes for care. Or what would happen if a person were unable to make healthcare decisions because of dementia. The question has now become, what if a sudden onset of COVID-19 occurred, and you were unable to speak on your own behalf? Would your loved ones know what you would want, or would they have to guess?
All adults—that is, anyone over the age of 18—should have an advance directive. The process of creating this and other health care-related estate planning documents will provide the answers to your loved ones, while helping you work through your wishes. Here’s how to start:
What matters to you? Give this considerable thought. What is important to you, who best knows and understands you and who would you trust to make critical decisions on your behalf, in the event of a medical emergency? What medical treatment would you want—or not want—and who can you count on to carry out your wishes?
Get documents in order, so your wishes are carried out. Your estate planning attorney can help you draft and execute the documents you need, so you can be confident that they will be treated as legitimate by health care providers. The estate planning lawyer will know how to execute the documents, so they are in compliance with your state’s laws. Here’s what you’ll want:
- A living will, which records your wishes for medical treatment, if you cannot speak on your own behalf.
- Medical power of attorney, to designate a person to make health care decisions, when you are not able to do so. The person is referred to as an agent, surrogate or proxy.
- A HIPAA release form, so the person you designate may speak with your medical care providers.
Note that none of these documents concerns distribution of your personal property and assets. For that, you’ll want a will or revocable living trust, which your estate planning attorney can prepare for you.
Talk to loved ones now. Consider this conversation a gift to them. This alleviates them from a lifetime of wondering if they did the right thing for you. Have a forthright conversation with them, let them know about the documents you have had prepared and what your wishes are.
Reference: Cincinnati.com (April 27, 2020) “COVID-19 crisis highlights the importance of completing advance directives”