The coronavirus pandemic has created a surge of interest in estate planning. According to Google Trends, searches for the term are at a year-to-date high.
Many important issues have arisen since the start of the pandemic. These include allowing intubation and using internet-based communications, such as Zoom or WebEx, rather than meeting healthcare providers in person.
Here are a few estate-planning issues to consider now:
Power of Attorney
If you become incapacitated, your named power of attorney (POA) may sign documents and pay bills on your behalf. A typical POA is written in such a way that it goes into effect upon your incapacitation. However, a doctor must issue a certificate of incapacity—and that usually must be done in person. In the current social-distancing environment, this type of situation is hard to navigate. One possible solution? Modify your POA to make it effective immediately, rather than upon your incapacitation.
If you have a living trust, you will face a similar issue. Control between an incapacitated person to the designated successor trustee usually requires a certificate of incapacity. You can avoid this potential problem by appointing another person as a current co-trustee and authorizing each co-trustee to act independently of each other.
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Many banks do not accept POAs. One way to avoid problems between your bank and your agent is to transfer your accounts into your trust. Another possible solution is to check into whether your bank has its own version of a POA form that it will honor if you become incapacitated.
Advanced Healthcare Directives
One of the saddest aspects about the coronavirus pandemic is that many critically sick people must be isolated in a hospital room. Family members and friends cannot stay with them in the hospital due to social distancing requirements. That means that someone you may have appointed as your agent will not be able to sign documents or communicate with healthcare providers in person. To sidestep this issue, you may consider authorizing third parties (such as healthcare facilities, healthcare providers and financial institutions) to communicate with and accept direction from your appointed agents via video conference, such as FaceTime or Zoom.
Does your current advanced healthcare directive prohibit the use of artificial interventions to keep you alive? If so, that may affect your ability to be put on a ventilator, which many COVID-19 patients require to recover. Consider revising your directive to allow intubation if you need it for respiratory distress. While you’re at it, you may also want to decide whether you want to authorize the use of experimental medications to treat COVID-19.
If you need some guidance to change your estate plan—or if you don’t have one yet—we can help. Click here to set up a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your estate planning needs with one of our financial planners.