Estate Planning Remains Important and Possible During COVID-19
As you take accurate precautions to mitigate COVID-19 to protect not only yourself but also your family, there are critical estate planning documents that will assist you and your family to navigate health and family issues should you become ill, quarantined, or hospitalized. These documents can be completed independently or combined into a comprehensive plan by the Estate Planning Team at Rhoades McKee.
Critical Estate Planning Documents
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney names another person (the “Agent”) to handle your financial matters. Having a Durable Power of Attorney prevents the need for your family to seek the appointment of a conservator at the probate court. Typically, the powers granted to the Agent are broad and include the ability to handle any and all financial matters that you would be able to handle if you were competent and capable of doing so. If you become hospitalized, your Agent would have the ability to pay your medical expenses, including doctor and hospital bills and navigate your insurance plans.
Patient Advocate Designation
A Patient Advocate Designation appoints an individual to make your medical and mental health treatment decisions for you. In the event you are unable to understand or communicate about your health matters, having a Patient Advocate Designation prevents the need for your family to seek the appointment of a guardian at the probate court. Your Patient Advocate only has the authority to act if you are incapable of making such decisions for yourself. This Designation also provides guidance to your Patient Advocate about the types of treatment you may or may not want. Due to the current health crisis, most hospitals are restricting family and other visitors from joining their loved one at the hospital. These new restrictions make having a Patient Advocate Designation of particular importance as many hospital’s visitor policies provide an exception for individuals serving as Patient Advocate.
Delegation of Parental Powers Over Minor Children
By way of a power of attorney, a parent may delegate to another person, for a period not exceeding 180 days, any of the parent’s powers regarding care, custody, or property of the minor child, with few exceptions. If you have minor children who need care and it becomes necessary for you to be quarantined, preparing this power of attorney for the children’s caregiver will give the caregiver proper authority to care for your children, including seeking medical treatment for your children, if medical treatment becomes necessary.
Parental Appointment of Guardian for Minor Children
A parent may appoint a guardian for a minor in a non-testamentary writing signed by the parent and attested by at least 2 witnesses. While many consider such an appointment in the event of a parent’s untimely death, such an appointment is also effective in the event the parent is in the hospital and incapacitated. By preparing such a document, you get to control who will care for your children in the event you are unable to do so. The guardian’s appointment will be effective when the guardian files an acceptance in the court at the place where the children reside or are located.
The Rhoades McKee Estate Planning Team is currently practicing social distancing to help stop the spread of the virus, but we remain available to assist you. We recognize that face-to-face meetings are ideal, and we hope to meet face-to-face with you in the very near future. In the meantime, however, we are happy to have a telephone or virtual conference with you to advise you regarding these critical estate planning documents. We will also guide you in ensuring that any documents we prepare for you are properly executed. While the critical estate planning documents described above may be more necessary in the immediacy, we encourage you to also consider establishing a more thorough estate plan, which might include such documents as a Last Will and Testament, Trust Agreement, Funeral Representative Designation, and Authorization to Release Protected Health Information. We look forward to working with you.