“To put it bluntly, what if you were in a serious accident or were suddenly rushed to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms or another life-threatening illness, and you were unable to make health care decisions for yourself?”
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. 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:
- Health Care Proxy, or some states a 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.
- In some states, a living will can be created to record your wishes for medical treatment if you cannot speak on your own behalf. It is equally effective to speak directly with your health care agent and tell him or her your wishes with regard to being revived or allowed to die based on your medical condition.
- A HIPAA release form so the person you designate may speak with your medical care providers.
Note that none of these documents concerns control over your personal property or assets if you lack capacity or once you are gone. For that, you’ll want a power of attorney which will name agents to act on your behalf while you are alive and a will or revocable living trust for after you pass away, all of which your estate planning attorney can prepare for you.
Talk to loved ones now. Consider this conversation a gift to your family because it saves them from a lifetime of guilt, 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”