A Map to Doing the Right Thing for Your Loved Ones During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Map to Doing the Right Thing for Your Loved Ones During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has caused huge numbers of people to face their own mortality, and to realize they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those of us in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality, and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.

Recently, I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client recently lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she wasn’t listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital. Naturally, she didn’t give up trying to get in touch, and eventually someone told her that he wasn’t in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she hadn’t heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé wasn’t in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He’d passed away the day before, and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.

Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you’ll leave behind, if you become sick or die, whether because of COVID-19 or something else?

Without a doubt, you would want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital, and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You’d also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death, or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

The Things You Can Do Yourself

First of all, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the truth is, we will all die. It’s better to face that with those that we love, and when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be.

Create an Inventory of What Matters

This is something that you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones, so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and to them, if something happens to you. Get out your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself. Set aside an hour to take an inventory of everything in your life that is important to you.

Important Note—Your inventory will not handle the following:
● A guarantee that your loved ones won’t have to go to court;
● Directing your assets to anyone other than your “next of kin” according to your state’s laws;
● Ensuring health care decisions are made for you, as you want (it’s not a will or a Health Care Directive);
● Making sure your unmarried partner can stay living in your house.

Update Your Health Care Directive, Including COVID-19 Provisions

This is extra important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation that my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents. If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it is that life is too short and anything can happen at any moment.

An Advance Health Care Directive has three parts:
● The Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
● The Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
● A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Be sure to include provisions that relate to COVID-19 care that you might otherwise not think of.  For some ideas on these provision, check out the articles on our blog.

Name Long-Term Legal Guardians for Your Kids

A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. If you got sick with COVID-19 and had to spend time away from your kids, who would care for them, legally? We have a website we’ve created where you can name legal guardians for your kids, at no charge.

What You Should Get A Lawyer’s Help With

The goal in setting up your estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of the court process and out of conflict. To do that, you have to keep your estate plan up to date, and ensure you’ve made the right decisions in the estate planning process.

Under the following circumstances, you should not just do planning yourself, but instead have a Life & Legacy Planning Session, during which we can look at your family dynamics, your assets, and the law so you can decide what you really do need for the people you love:
● If you have assets, beyond what you can physically see and touch, and those assets are worth more than $100k;
● If you live with your unmarried partner in a house that one of you owns and the other doesn’t (or even if you own it together);
● If you have minor children and your named guardians don’t live locally to you;
● If you are in a second (or more) marriage;
● If you have complex family dynamics;
● If you have a business you want to continue after you are gone;
● If you know for sure you would want to keep your family out of court no matter what.

All of our Life & Legacy Planning Sessions are happening virtually these days, and we can make the whole process quite easy and affordable for you and the people you love. Contact us to schedule your Life & Legacy Planning Session, if you are ready to face your mortality courageously.

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