Are you and your family prepared if you or your spouse falls ill? These unprecedented COVID-19 times remind us how important it is to have the proper estate planning documents in place. It is not just a Last Will and Testament, which distributes assets at death, but the essential documents also include a Financial Power of Attorney and an Advance Directive for Health Care.
The Financial Power of Attorney would allow your agent to perform financial transactions if you were unable to do so on your own. This means your bills can be paid, taxes can be filed, and assets can be sold, providing it is for your benefit. While many people fear turning over their financial life to someone—no matter how trusted—rest assured, your named agent has a fiduciary obligation to manage your estate in your best interest. These documents are typically written to become effective if you are incapacitated, but many times you can indicate that your spouse has immediate authority.
The Advance Directive for Health Care would give guidance on your wishes dealing with end of life decisions and treatment preferences. It also names an agent to help with the decisions in the event you are unable to do so on your own. An Advance Directive for Health Care combines what used to be known as a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney. What you may need often depends on your state’s laws. Essentially, these documents allow you to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are incapacitated and can express your decision to approve or decline medical care, even if you may die as a result of the choice.
Some questions have arisen about Advance Directives/Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Orders regarding COVID-19 and the use of ventilators.
- Ventilators are used to give a patient the chance to survive. For Advance Directives/DNR Orders, the treatment preferences only apply in conditions with no reasonable expectation for survival (e.g., death in a short amount of time or brain dead with no chance of revival). Advance Directives should NEVER apply when there is a chance of survival, as with the use of a ventilator.
- If a patient suffering from COVID-19 has deteriorated to a point where one of the above conditions is met, then the Advance Directive would be applicable.
- We have not had situations across the United States (outside of New York) where a decision had to be made regarding who should receive priority if there were a shortage of ventilators. It is unlikely to happen, but if it were to happen, it’ll most likely be in very rural areas that aren’t well equipped.
- Hospitals often have ethics committees in place to make decisions if there is not already a relevant policy.
You should not need to update your Advance Directive to cover a COVID-19 situation related to the use of a ventilator. If you have any special instructions or wishes related to COVID-19 treatment, you may want to consider contacting your estate planning attorney to update your documents. There is a place for “additional statements” in the document where you can write any treatment preference not already covered.
If you have questions about your estate plan, contact the Experts at Henssler Financial:
- Experts Request Form
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone: 770-429-9166
- Join the Conversation in Our Coronavirus Facebook Group