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The Importance of Assigning a Power of Attorney in the Time of COVID-19

By April 1, 2020 April 10th, 2020 No Comments

With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe, we are faced with many questions and anxieties about the future. We still have no definite timeline for when the outbreak may subside, and until then, we are doing what we can to keep ourselves healthy and safe. While we never know what the future may hold, it’s a good idea to put a variety of precautions in place to ensure that we are fully protected. Even if you don’t think you will catch the virus, it’s helpful to designate a durable power of attorney for health care, should you become infected and unable to communicate your healthcare preferences. Taking a few simple steps today can give you a greater sense of security, knowing that your healthcare wishes will be known and respected no matter what.

Articulating Your Preferences for Medical Interventions

Right now, you should consider working with an estate planning attorney to complete an advance healthcare directive and assigning a durable power of attorney for healthcare. Essentially, an advance directive allows you to express your wishes in writing about the types of medical interventions you’d like to receive (or would not like to receive), should you become unable to communicate these wishes yourself. In the time of COVID-19, you should carefully consider your thoughts on treatments such as intubation, where a ventilator may be used to help you breathe. If you already have an advance directive in place, it’s worth revisiting the language around intubation to make sure the document accurately reflects your current wishes.

Appointing a Medical Power of Attorney

Usually, when you establish an advance directive, you also appoint a health care agent or medical power of attorney to make important medical decisions on your behalf and ensure that your medical wishes are known and respected. Whether you are creating an advance directive for the first time or you are revisiting one that you already have in place, make sure to clarify the language surrounding how your health care agent may communicate with medical professionals. In many cases, the document assumes that all communications must be in person. However, with the social distancing restrictions triggered by the virus, it’s essential that you explicitly give your health care agent the authority to communicate with medical professionals over the phone, via email, or through video conferencing.

Creative Solutions to Legal Requirements

Under normal circumstances, most legal documents must be signed and notarized in the presence of witnesses. However, as COVID-19 has made it unsafe to sign legal documents in a shared physical space, people are thinking of alternative ways to make valid legal documents. Firstly, it is still your constitutional right to express your wishes about your own medical care. By completing the necessary legal documents, you are still putting your wishes in writing. So, even if these documents have not been officially notarized, medical professionals are still obligated to honor your wishes. Secondly, some states—including Washington—support the use of remote online notarization services. No matter what your concerns may be, reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your future remains properly protected.

The dedicated legal professionals at Legacy Law Group understand how worrisome this unprecedented time can be, especially when it comes to your healthcare. Call our Spokane Valley office today at (509) 315-8087 to discuss your estate planning goals so that you can rest easier with the knowledge that, no matter what the future holds, you and your loved ones will be protected.