As we continue to brave the impact of the pandemic, estate planning is a topic on many people’s minds. With the uncertainties we are all facing, now is good time to review your estate planning documents and/or ensure you have the basics in place should you become ill and hospitalized.
Preparing an estate plan with the right documents relieves family members from being burdened with tough health and financial decisions. I have a personal interest in discussing this because my eighty-six-year-old beautiful mother now has covid. It has been tough
I realized this was a teachable moment by telling you about my situation so that you will know, it is better to prepare ahead of time so that your family can be free of worry during a most stressful time.
Yesterday, I had to call Dispatch Health for my mother after her decline of covid. This organization offers urgent medical care that is fast, convenient and they will come to your home to care for someone ill. I took my mother to both St Anthony's and Integris last week and both hospitals turned her away stating she was not bad enough yet. We advocated for her care however there was too many people in the hospitals with covid. I needed to find someone who will tell me why my mother was sleeping all day, not eating and in a state of confusion. Even her doctors failed to call us back after three calls made.
To get this help, I had to know my mother's insurance, and detailed information about her. If I did not have a medical power of attorney, I could no longer seek help unless my mother could respond and say “I need help.” My mother was incoherent. I had to scream at my mother and say - "Mother please tell them you need help". Thankfully, she responded with "Yes" to Dispatch Health when asked can we come in to help you? I asked the very nice person on the phone, what if she couldn't respond? The person told me; they would not have been able to help her.
My family and I could not wait for the appointment from Dispatch Health. My decision was to call an ambulance again and trust that Integris Hospital would take my mother because she got worse. Oxygen levels were under eighty-five, blood pressure was at 91/60. We had called the ambulance when her oxygen went to eighty-nine. The EMTs and paramedics said we called in time. My mother would not have lasted through the night. Her appointment with Dispatch Health was between 8:30-10:30 the next morning.
The point to my story is planning is necessary. Yes, I would have called the ambulance anyway, but things could get in the way when you need a document to make decisions or your journey smoother.
Check out these estate planning documents you may need during covid or any other life event that affects your money, decisions, or care.
Medical Power of Attorney (Patient Advocate Designation) - This document appoints someone you trust to make medical and mental health treatment decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so for yourself. Given the nature of the current outbreak and new restrictions hospitals have on visitors, family members are being turned away while many hospitals are allowing Medical Powers of Attorney in. Without one already designated, your family will need to spend time and money on requests through the probate court to assign one for you.
Living Will - While your Medical Power of Attorney appoints someone to legally act on your behalf, your Living Will outlines your wishes for him/her to follow in regard to end-of-life treatment should you become incapacitated and cannot communicate them yourself. Decisions like these can be very heartbreaking for family members to make, so having this document takes them out of your family members’ hands. This document, usually paired with a Medical Power of Attorney, is known as your Advanced Directive.
Delegation of Parental Powers Over Minor Children - While guardianship of minor children is important for making sure someone you trust is legally appointed to take care of your kids in the event of your death, it’s also crucial in times like these. Given the current pandemic, you could find yourself needing to be quarantined away from your children or hospitalized for treatment, so this document appoints someone you trust to temporarily have custody of and care for them.
HIPAA Authorization - This is a back-up document that allows your family members or patient advocate designee to access (or not access) your medical records. This form makes it very clear who can and cannot receive that information.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney - This authorizes someone you trust to act upon your behalf in regard to carrying out your financial affairs. Again, should you become incapacitated, this person is able to continue to pay your bills, sign checks, make deposits, sell and purchase assets and sign tax returns. As with the Medical Power of Attorney, without one, your family will need to spend time and money on requests through the probate court to assign one for you.
Revocable Living Trust and Last Will and Testament - These documents are directives for your loved ones on how to handle your money, property and assets so your family will be taken care of if you pass away. One of their main differences is, while a Last Will and Testament becomes effective after you pass away, a Living Trust gives you the ability to plan for situations where you become incapacitated since it becomes effective the moment it’s signed while you are still living.
Whether you are facing a small personal crisis or a global pandemic, these documents are the legal tools that you need to give yourself and your loved ones some protection and peace of mind. If you don’t have these in place, this is a good time to do so. If you have questions on how to get started, we can help.
Kathy Williams, RFC
Advance Financial Lighthouse