As with everything in life, preparation is key to managing a crisis. For years, we have advised clients and seminar attendees about the critical importance of completing their basic estate planning documents, namely: a health care proxy, power of attorney and living will. With the advent of a very bad flu season and now the Coronavirus, which is creating much concern in the U.S., once again we are appealing to you to get these basic documents completed. This will ensure that your decisions are honored if you find yourself sick, quarantined, or in the hospital or other health care facility.

Health Care Proxy

This is a relatively simple legal document which appoints an agent of your choice to make health care decisions for you, only when you lose the capacity to make health care decisions for yourself. The health care agent will have the ability to make all of your health care decisions, including the need for routine and emergency care. This includes when you are at home, in a health care facility or in the hospital.

Living Will

This is also a relatively simple legal document, which directs your health care agent, who was appointed in your Health Care Proxy, to make end of life decisions, only when you have an incurable and terminal condition. In this document, you will tell your health care agent whether, at end of life, you would want to be kept alive by extraordinary means, i.e., artificial nutrition and hydration, etc., or if you choose to not have these measures performed.

Power of Attorney

This is a financial/legal document in which you appoint a financial agent to make financial decisions, either immediately (upon signature) or at a later date, when you lack the capacity to make financial decisions. It is very important that you understand the benefits and risks involved and carefully consider who you are appointing. With the potential for people to be sick and/or travel restrictions that may be put in place, this document could be important for keeping your business afloat and your finances intact.

These relatively simple legal documents make certain that your decisions are adhered to regarding health care decisions and finances, when you are unable to make such decisions because of an illness. They are simple to understand, do not take long to draft and sign, and ensure your wishes are adhered to.