This is the next post in a series of articles discussing the importance of preparing an estate plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our previous article discussed how Powers of Attorney can help protect our most vulnerable residents who may wish to delegate authority to a trusted agent to handle certain matters on their behalf. A durable Power of Attorney can allow high-risk individuals to remain at home or allow families to make decisions on their loved one’s behalf should they become incapacitated. In this article, we will discuss another important element of one’s estate plan: Healthcare Powers of Attorney and Living Wills. Particularly during the current coronavirus crisis, these documents can be essential for Connecticut residents. If you need assistance, contact our office today.
Similar to financial Powers of Attorney as discussed in our previous post, Connecticut residents may appoint an agent specifically to make healthcare decisions on their behalf if they become unable to do so. By issuing a Healthcare Power of Attorney, an individual designates a representative to handle their medical affairs if they become incapacitated. These documents are often created as part of one’s overall estate planning but can also be prepared in anticipation of a planned medical event, such as major surgery. During the current health crisis, a Healthcare Power of Attorney may become useful should someone unexpectedly fall ill and become unable to make their own decisions about medical treatment. Consider, for example, an individual who contracts COVID-19, is placed in intensive care and requires ventilation for a period of time. While ventilated, that person cannot consult with doctors or participate in medical decision-making. Their agent may have to communicate with physicians to authorize ongoing treatments. Absent the Healthcare Power of Attorney, physicians may not be willing to release protected medical information or discuss treatment with the agent.
A Living Will may also become important during this crisis. Living Wills are executed by an individual while that person has legal capacity. It is an opportunity for the individual to set forth the type of medical treatment he or she desires should he or she become terminally ill or permanently unconscious as determined by a medical doctor. Typically, the directives in the living will are carried out by the doctor and the Healthcare Power of Attorney particularly when the individual is unable to communicate. A Living Will may also be referred to as an advanced directive. These documents often contain a variety of instructions, including directions regarding the provision of surgeries, ventilation equipment, comfort care, or ongoing nutrition. They may also address an individual’s desires about anatomical gifts after their death. By creating a Living Will, an individual can record their preferences for receiving or stopping treatments in specific circumstances and direct physicians or representatives to act consistently with their wishes. Doing so can provide relief to loved ones who may otherwise struggle to make difficult end-of-life decisions on your behalf.
Our office is prepared to assist Connecticut residents with estate planning during the COVID-19 crisis, including Healthcare Powers of Attorney and other advanced directives. If you need assistance, contact our office today to speak with a Hartford lawyer. We also serve the areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.