Like many of you, we are closely monitoring the spread and impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus) around the world. Our thoughts are with those that have been directly affected by the virus and with all the health care workers who are on the frontlines managing it. With the focus that has shifted to the danger posed by COVID-19, now is an important time to make sure you have estate planning documents in place – or that your documents are updated if you already have them in place.
The reality of COVID-19 has forced many individuals to address the “what if” scenarios that were previously unthinkable, or at least the situations that no one ever wants to talk about or deal with.
There are a few basic documents that everyone over the age of eighteen (18) should consider:
- Power of Attorney (for Finances). A written instrument authorizing an agent (sometimes called the “attorney-in-fact”) to act on behalf of the person who signed the instrument (the principal) with respect to some or all legal and financial matters. The scope of powers and authority given under a particular power of attorney is spelled out in the document itself, and may be limited, or expanded. Most powers of attorney are created to be “durable”, so they do not expire or terminate upon the disability of the principal. However, all power of attorney documents, and powers, terminate upon the death of the principal.
- Health Care Surrogate (Health Care Proxy/Health Care Power of Attorney). A healthcare directive is more critical now than ever. This is a document that appoints an agent to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate your own medical decisions.
- Living Will. A document instructing physicians, relatives, or others to refrain from the use of extraordinary measures, such as life-support, to prolong one’s life in the event of a terminal condition, an end-stage condition, or a persistent vegetative state.
In times of uncertainty like these, it can be reassuring to be certain about the fact that, if you are hospitalized or become incapacitated, your wishes will be met and the people you would want carrying out your wishes will have the authority to do so. Without these documents in place, it may be necessary for your loved ones to go to court and be appointed your guardian and conservator. Because of court closures and related issues, that is a process that could take several months. Having a power of attorney or medical directive in place ensures that your wishes are in effect without forcing your family to go through the expense, time, and stress of a court hearing.
Given the current atmosphere, there are a few additional tips to consider:
- Make sure your documents are current and reflect your wishes. At times like these, we are reminded of the most fundamental purpose of estate planning – to make sure that our plans, and the documents that carry out those plans, reflect our wishes. With that in mind, now would be a great time to review your existing documents and ensure they reflect your current thinking.
- Make sure your advance directives are up to date and that you have copies available. Your advance directives (such as your health care surrogate, living will, and power of attorney) express your wishes and authorize your agents to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. Review these documents to ensure that they reflect your current wishes and name the persons who you trust will be able to tend to those matters on your behalf. In addition, make sure to discuss your health care wishes with your agents so that, if necessary, they are prepared to make decisions that reflect your wishes.
- Focus on your estate plan if you have not already done so. Many people put off on starting, or delay completing, their estate plans while trying to finalize some difficult decisions. As the current crisis reminds us, we never know exactly when we will need our estate plans. Therefore, focus on completing your plans to the best of your ability now, and remember that you can make changes in the future.
Our focus, as always, will be on helping clients achieve peace of mind. We’ll do this by keeping our employees safe and healthy, our business running, and staying focused on our mission.
We value our relationship with each of you and thank you for placing your trust in our firm. We are committed to staying connected with you as we all navigate these unprecedented times.
Estate Planning & Elder Law Center of Brevard remains open to meet with clients. If you prefer a telephone appointment, we can do that as well. The only portion of our meetings that requires an in-person visit is your document signing. If you would like to make sure your affairs are in order, please call our office at 321-729-0087 as soon as possible to schedule an appointment, or request an appointment via our website.
Health Care Providers & First Responders
You are on the front-lines helping everyone, especially the sick and exposed. As natural caregivers, you don’t usually take care of your own needs. Now is the time to take care of you, too! Estate Planning & Elder Law Center of Brevard is offering:
- Free Estate Planning Consultations
- 50% off Durable Power of Attorneys and Health Care Advanced Directives to all health care providers and first responders.
Don’t delay. None of us are immune. Call us today at 321-729-0087 to get started, or request an appointment via our website.