We’ve held off on writing about this because it feels weird to market legal services during a pandemic. But our practice is intended to help people during times like this – in uncertainty, when difficult medical decisions have to be made, and when lives are being lost. With no realistic end in sight to these circumstances, and with increasing numbers of hospitalized individuals in our communities locally, it feels important and appropriate to stress the necessity of having, at the very least, basic estate planning documents in place.
With the rest of life on hold for the time being, getting your affairs in order might not be at the top of your “To-Do” list. Many people contact us to say that they “need a Will,” but Wills are useful for one, very specific time: after you die. It is rarer for people to call and say that they need to do the necessary paperwork to make sure things can be handled for them, in accordance with THEIR wishes, while they are still alive.
We would contend that while certainly not elaborate, the more valuable estate planning we do is often the documents that simply ensure that decisions can be made for you while you are alive, but unable make healthcare decisions for yourself, or handle your own legal or financial affairs.
While always an essential part of an estate plan, these documents are crucial right now in making sure that patients receive the type of care they want.
Under normal circumstances, families could be bedside to assess a loved one’s status and discuss preferences, all while consulting with the treating physicians. Because of the necessary hospital restrictions that are in place, what we are now seeing in real life are that families cannot have direct contact with patients. In those contexts, without proper paperwork in place ahead of time, it can be challenging, if not impossible, for families to ensure that their loved ones’ wishes are being upheld.
Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and Durable Powers of Attorney are essential documents on our best days. During an unprecedented global health crisis, they are even more essential. These documents give you an opportunity to select your decision maker and articulate your preferences ahead of time for the type of care you would want to receive (or not receive) if you were very ill, or if you were dying.
So yes, there are a lot of things that are on hold right now, and should stay on hold, for excellent reasons. Your estate planning is not one of those things. While we are all working differently these days, we are still here for you and with the support of technology, we can help you safely and efficiently get your planning in place.