Updated: Jul 29, 2020
As COVID-19 cripples the world, many of us are feeling scared and worried about what the future holds. You may be wondering what would happen to your loved ones and how they would be taken care of if you were to get sick or die. Those of us with older or infirm parents may be particularly anxious, concerned for their health and unclear about what would unfold in the wake of their sudden incapacity or death.
Never in our lifetimes have these questions felt so pressing on a global scale.
Other than engaging in best health practices such as consistent hand washing, physical distancing, and boosting our immunity with nutritious foods, we simply cannot control who will contract the coronavirus.
But we CAN protect ourselves and our loved ones through conscious legal planning.
By putting into place the documents discussed below and in next week's “Empowered Planning in a Pandemic — Part 2," you can ensure that:
your loved ones will have the authority to make informed medical, legal, and financial decisions on your behalf;
your end-of-life wishes will be carried out;
your minor children will be protected and cared for by those, and in the manner, you choose; and
your assets will be spared administration through the lengthy, expensive, public court process called probate.
Advance Health Care Directive, HIPAA Waiver, & Living Will
In the event that you’re ever unable to make health care decisions for yourself, you can designate an agent (typically a spouse or life partner, family member, or friend) who will have legal authority to make these decisions for you.
It is super important to know that, without the advance health care directive and HIPAA waiver, the person you choose — even a spouse — will have to petition a judge to obtain a conservatorship before most medical facilities will honor that individual's directions. Going to court is almost never a pleasant affair; having to do so while your loved one is gravely ill can be gut-wrenching.
These documents are all the more crucial if the person you’ve chosen isn’t related to you by law or blood — say, a life partner or best friend. In fact, in that situation, it’s also a great idea to put into place a Health Care Facility Visitation Authorization. It will ensure that the person you designate not only has the right to information regarding your condition, treatment, and prognosis, but also “first preference” to visit you in a medical facility — even if those related to you by blood or marriage might oppose that choice.
With a living will, you can specify your end-of-life decisions — for example, a “do not resuscitate” instruction, organ and tissue donation choices, and burial v. cremation directions — so that your agent knows exactly what you want. This is a HUGE gift to those left behind who may be conflicted about how best to honor your wishes, all while burdened with loss and grief.
Durable Power of Attorney
Unfortunately, if you’re sick or unconscious in the hospital, someone still has to pay your rent and mortgage, utility bills, and credit cards. Perhaps your family needs to sell that Google or Apple stock you purchased ten years ago to cover your medical expenses. Or maybe a once-in-a lifetime offer was made on that property you have been trying to sell for years.
Without the proper documentation in place, your loved ones — even a spouse who isn’t listed on the relevant bank accounts, stock certificates, etc. — would have to seek court approval for the right to access any accounts or perform any financial or legal tasks on your behalf. (Banks and other institutions are notoriously hard-lined on this requirement to protect themselves.)
But the good news is that you can easily avoid this issue with a valid power of attorney.
The person you choose to stand in your shoes as your “attorney-in-fact” is legally authorized to access all your accounts, sell your stocks, buy and sell real property, and make a host of other legal and financial decisions on your behalf.
Hopefully, your loved ones will never have to rely on your power of attorney; but if that time ever comes, they'll be so grateful to have it.
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Stay tuned for next week’s blog, "Empowered Planning in a Pandemic — Part 2" to learn more about the steps you can take to ensure that your minor children will always be protected and your assets preserved for their needs.
In "Empowered Planning in a Pandemic — Part 3," you'll learn how legacy preservation planning can pass down your truly priceless assets such as family histories, memories, and values for generations to come.
Call Seven Generations Law today at 310 907 8057 to learn more or to schedule a VIRTUAL Life + Legacy Planning Session. We look forward to helping you ensure that your wishes are carried out and your legacy endures for your loved ones in these unprecedented times.