The COVID-19 outbreak has brought a lot of changes to our lives, one of which includes thinking more seriously about end-of-life planning. It is not something most people want to think about or deal with, but avoiding it means doing yourself and your family a disservice. Even if you are never exposed to the virus, it is a good time to consider what you can do to make the end of your life easier on you and your loved ones.
If you have postponed organizing your state and handling end-of-life planning, it is important to make these matters before there is an emergency. The decisions you need to make concerning your estate are not ones that should be made with urgency or under stress. They should also not be left to someone else to make. Dealing with your estate now, hopefully long before anything needs to be done with your estate, is the best thing you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
What can you do to ensure you are prepared should you contract a serious illness or be in an accident that puts your life in jeopardy?
Decide Who Will Make Medical Decisions on Your Behalf
The first decision you need to make is who will take over that decision-making power in the event you are unable to think or speak for yourself. Whomever you choose is your healthcare proxy and is granted durable power of attorney for your decisions regarding your medical health. This is especially important in light of COVID-19 because some of the more at-risk people who have been stricken with the virus must be placed on a ventilator.
Once you have made your decision concerning your medical care, you must decide who will play a similar role regarding your financial affairs. This person becomes your financial power of attorney and manages money matters in the event you cannot. Your financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney can be a single individual, but do not have to be the same person.
Make Your Decisions Legally Sound
Once you have made your decisions, it is important to speak to an attorney who can help you create a plan that will stand up under legal scrutiny. Ideally nobody will question your choices, but it happens and you need to ensure your wishes are honored even if you are unable to speak.
In addition to solidifying your choices about powers of attorney, you will also want to discuss with your attorney matters related to childcare and child custody if you are the guardian of minor children and matters related to your assets. Most people draw up a last will and testament, but other estate planning documents might also be helpful. You and your attorney can discuss your situation and evaluate your needs and desires to ensure the best possible plan is created.
Finally, verbally shares your wishes with everyone in your family so people are not surprised by the legal restrictions that occur should something happen to you. You want everyone on the same page, so they are not distracted by legal matters when they should be focused on caring for your issues and managing their own health and well-being.