Coronavirus has more people addressing their end-of-life planning. And for those who haven’t, it’s a great time to take it on.
People are traditionally hesitant to take the steps that experts suggest — creating an advance directive, writing a will and more — in part because they don’t want to ponder their own mortality. But the coronavirus pandemic has sharpened awareness on the topic. Several estate attorneys, online legal service providers and life insurers say they’ve seen an uptick in interest since the coronavirus hit.
Consider the advice of Jenni Neahring, a kidney specialist and palliative care doctor at St. Charles Hospital in Bend, Oregon, who works daily with patients with chronic and serious illnesses. She says it’s better to make these decisions before an emergency to avoid putting extra stress on loved ones if something should happen.
If a patient is unconscious, health care professionals must spend critical time hunting down relatives or friends to help determine their preferred next steps.
Things have gotten harder with COVID-19, Neahring said, as no one is allowed in the hospitals with these patients.
Start with picking your point person: Who will make medical decisions for you if you cannot speak for yourself? This person is known as the health care proxy. They will be named in a legal document known as the durable power of attorney for health care.
Then choose someone who can oversee your financial affairs, such as paying your mortgage or other bills, if you are incapacitated. This person would be given financial power of attorney. It doesn’t have to be the same person as your health care proxy.
Write it down
After you’ve addressed the health care and financial representatives, consider writing a living will, or “advanced directive.” An advanced directive says exactly what medical care you do and do not want. Each state has its own advanced directive form; they can be found at the Medicare website.
Consider writing a will to let people know what to do with your assets after you die and whom you choose to be guardian of any children. Without a will, it won’t be up to you who raises your kids, and your estate could end up in probate, potentially causing more headaches for those you leave behind.
Estate attorney Matthew D’Emilio said most lawyers are able to arrange phone, video or other consultations during the pandemic. If the idea or cost of seeing an attorney is too daunting, there are many online options for legal documents.
Share your wishes
Let your friends and family know what you want, who is in charge and what documents you have. Provide a copy of critical paperwork to your loved ones.