Over the past few months, you’ve heard about how quickly and unpredictably COVID-19 can strike. With little warning, a person can be debilitated by the virus and left unable to communicate. When that happens, difficult decisions may need to be made, and without an advance medical directive, family members and healthcare workers could be forced to guess what life-sustaining procedures the patient would want to be used. Fortunately, there are legal measures you can take to keep control of your healthcare choices if you’re incapacitated by coronavirus or another serious medical condition.
Living wills address end-of-life decisions
Many people are familiar with the term “living will” but they may not be sure exactly what such a document does. A living will has nothing to do with distribution of property. Rather, it addresses the type of care a person wants when they are unable to make medical decisions of sound mind. You may not wish to be resuscitated if your bodily systems have begun to fail. With a living will, you can declare what type of procedures you want or don’t want in a dire situation.
Healthcare proxies and power of attorney documents
If you’ve been afflicted with COVID-19 or have suffered some other illness or injury, you may not be able to express your medical preferences. By executing a healthcare proxy or power of attorney, you can designate someone you trust to serve as your legal representative for the purpose of making decisions on your treatment. As opposed to living wills, these instruments are not limited in scope to end-of-life situations.
Transferring authority over legal and financial matters
Just because a patient is hospitalized for an extended period of time, that does not mean their legal and financial obligations disappear. Just as it makes sense to appoint someone to handle critical medical choices in the event you become incapacitated, it may also be worthwhile to transfer legal and financial authority to a trusted family member or friend. This way, a health crisis does not expose you to problems that could occur if taxes and other obligations go unaddressed.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to spur people into taking care of important matters that they had previously delayed. An experienced estate planning attorney can guide you through your options and help you develop advance medical directives that suit your values and priorities.