We were told all along that the colder weather would usher in a resurgence of the novel coronavirus, and we have reached that point.
Estate planning attorneys always emphasize the fact that anything can happen at any time under ordinary circumstances. People understand this, but far too many of them embrace the “this will never happen to me” mantra.
The pandemic has painted a very stark picture that is unavoidable. You can be perfectly healthy on one day and find yourself in the intensive care unit a few days later.
Proactive planning has never been more important than it is right now, and advance directives for health care should be part of the plan.
Medical Decision Making
Your estate plan should address serious medical conditions, and the documents that are used are called advance directives for health care. A living will is one of these directives, and this type of will is used to state your life support preferences.
If you choose to do so, you can address each different type of life support technique, and you can also include your organ and tissue donation and comfort care medication choices.
Life support questions are very personal, so you should definitely assert your wishes so that no one is asked to make life or death choices on your behalf.
There are medical matters that can arise that are not directly directed to the utilization of life support procedures. To account for this possibility, you should include a durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy.
With this document, you empower an agent that would make your medical decisions if you become unable to communicate them yourself. The “durable” designation is significant, because this type of power of attorney will remain in effect in the event of your incapacity.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to establish patient privacy safeguards. HIPAA regulations prevent doctors from sharing health care information with anyone other than the patient unless a release form has been signed.
You should include a HIPAA release to give your agent (and anyone else that you want to add) the ability to discuss your condition with health care professionals.
Your incapacity plan should also address the financial part of the equation. If you have a living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are alive and well. When you create the trust declaration, you can name a disability trustee to assume the role if it ever becomes necessary.
For property that is not in the trust, you can add a durable power of attorney for property. This can be the same person that will act as your medical decision maker, but this is not a requirement.
Your incapacity plan should be part of your broader estate plan. There are many different ways to facilitate asset transfers, and the right choice will depend upon the circumstances.
The pandemic has shown us how quickly things can change. You should have an estate plan in place as soon as you are a self-supporting adult, and it becomes an absolute must if you have a spouse and/or children.
Access Our Free Worksheet
We have developed an estate planning worksheet that you can go through to gain a more thorough understanding of the process. It is being offered free of charge, and you can visit our worksheet page to get your copy.
Need Help Now?
If you are ready to work with an attorney from our firm to put a custom crafted estate plan in place, our doors are open. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 860-548-1000.
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