COVID -19 Response from a Legal and Estate Planning Perspective- Protect your Family.

(Nyack, New York- April 3, 2020)  We all hear the horrible, and getting worse, stories of loved ones sick, suddenly finding themselves in the hospital, incapacitated, and no longer in touch with their family members, unable to pay their own bills, manage assets, or even make medical decisions.  With the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), this scenario is a growing concern, and unfortunately, a growing reality for many.

What are common issues families face when a loved one is incapacitated and what Estate Planning documents might give all a piece of mind:

*  No power to make medical decisions if you are unable to communicate your medical wishes;

*  Family infighting and stress over what medical decisions should be made for you because your wishes were not specified;

*  Inability to access your bank accounts to pay the bills;

*  No legal authority to write checks on your behalf or apply for medical insurance/benefits to pay for your hospital stay;

*  Long and stressful court hearings to get the legal authority to make financial and medical decisions for you;

During this period of fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic (COVID-19), these are serious and potentially life-altering concerns.  What should you do?  I would recommend preparing several documents to legally permit others (trusted) to make serious financial and medical decisions for you.   There are the five (5) essential Estate Planning documents you need to make during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to protect you and your family.

Health Care Proxy (New York).   Planning for end of life medical care is never easy. Unfortunately, if you are incapacitated or unable to communicate, the burden of making your medical and end-of-life decisions may be unexpectedly placed on the shoulders of family members who are not prepared for the task.  Even worse, your medical decisions could be placed in the hands of the courts.  Imagine if there was no one appointed to make medical decisions on your behalf, or if your loved ones had no instructions on your wishes and they were left to guess.  Even worse, what if these health and financial decisions were given to someone you never intended or by the courts.  Think about the difficulty and stress this could cause.

What Is A Health Care Proxy (or Medical Power Of Attorney) In New York?

In New York, a Health Care Proxy (sometimes known as a Medical Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care) is a legal document that authorizes someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf.   The person you appoint to make your medical decisions is known as your Agent, and that person is given the authority to make medical decisions if you are incapable of making decisions or are unable to communicate, usually because you are incapacitated.   Generally, you should appoint a person is someone you trust, someone capable of making your critical medical decisions if you are unable to communicate. There may be certain people you might trust with these decisions, and others who you believe might be too emotional to take on that responsibility.   That person can be anyone older the 18 years old who may appear to a court to be a natural choice to make your medical decisions (e.g., spouse, sibling, child etc.).   Be careful to update your wishes frequently, unless you want someone who might have been estranged for a long period of time, or who were simply not close enough to you to know your present intentions. The problem: if something happens to you and you do not have a Health Care Proxy prepared ahead of time, your family might get stuck with a person who you may not want to make your medical decisions, or who your family wants to fight with.   During this time of crisis (where the court houses are closed), you want to avoid going to the court to have a Guardian or Conservator appointed if there is no one previously appointed a Health Care Agent (and Attorney-in-Fact under a Durable Power of Attorney).

What Are The Benefits Of A Health Care Proxy in New York?

By preparing a Health Care Proxy you legally empower someone to make the proper medical and end-of-life decisions should the need arise.   Planning ensures that you control who makes the decisions, and you avoid someone who may be unprepared or ill-suited for the role.

Living Will.

While we will update this Blog with other documents recommended for this pandemic, you should also consider preparing a “Living Will” to document your personal beliefs as to end of life care.  While your Health Care Proxy appoints an Agent to make medical decisions on your behalf, the “Living Will” outlines which “end of life” procedures you consent to or believe necessary your medical care (decisions that you would make on your own).   If they are outlined in a separate document, as they are in a “Living Will,” then no hospital can substitute its view or seek court intervention if there is a question.  Your Agent or Proxy will have written proof eliminating any confusion about certain treatments that you would or would not have wanted.

Why do you need both the Living Will and the Health Care Proxy for Medical Decisions in New York?

Unlike a Living Will, the Health Care Proxy generally does not dictate your wishes for your medical care, it only gives the legal authority to your Personal Representative to make medical decisions on your behalf.  As a result, it is highly recommended that when planning for end of life care, you prepare both a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will.

At the very least, in reading this blog entry and considering the situation, this pandemic should prompt you to have an open and honest discussion with your family and friends about the types of treatments that you would like performed (and those you would not).

You should not confuse a Health Care Proxy with a full Power of Attorney.   A legal Power of Attorney appoints another individual to manage your finances if you are incapacitated.

Bottom Line—you should, at the very least, prepare a Health Care Proxy and a Living Will to address the short-term problems associated with this virus, prolonged hospital stays, and ventilators.

Just give me a call at (845) 727-7727 or email me with your questions and complimentary consultation.

Contact Information