ESTATE PLANNING AND THE CORONAVIRUS
By Milton Babirak, JD, LLM | Babirak Carr, PC | Sterling, VA
The impact of the coronavirus on our lives cannot be overstated. The curve has flattened here in Virginia, but the virus will probably be with us for some time. What does the virus mean for your estate plan? If you contract the virus, who makes your healthcare and financial decisions if you cannot? Customarily, an estate plan includes a general durable power of attorney for financial affairs (DPA for Finance), a general durable power of attorney for healthcare (DPA Healthcare) and an advance medical directive (AMD). Check to see if you have these documents in your estate plan. If so, you should review them now to see if they are suitable for you in the context of this current pandemic.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs?
A DPA for Finance is a commonly used estate planning document in which you appoint an agent to make financial decisions for you if you become physically or mentally disabled. These documents are written to be as broad as possible to cover any thing that might arise during your disability. Because of this, your existing DPA Finance may continue to be suitable in the pandemic.
What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare?
A DPA Healthcare is commonly used to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you become physically or mentally disabled. Your existing DPA Healthcare was probably not drafted with the coronavirus in mind. You should review your document to see if you want to supplement it to cover decisions that have to be made in case you contract the virus, especially as it relates to therapeutics, hospitalization and specific treatments, including the use of a ventilator.
Advanced Medical Directive
Quite frequently, an AMD is added to a DPA Healthcare. It is an optional provision in your DPA Healthcare or optional separate document declaring that the person signing the document does not want any heroic or extraordinary measures to be taken to save their life in case they have a terminal medical condition. The provision or document commonly specifies that pain medication, food and water may be administered and should not be withheld. You may want to check to see if you have an AMD or if AMD language is in your DPA Healthcare.
Are Your Documents Fresh?
DPAs for Finance, DPAs for Healthcare, and AMDs are usually prepared and signed at the time you execute your revocable trust or will. You should check the dates of your DPAs and AMDs. If your documents are many years old, you may want to seek the advice of your estate planning lawyer to execute new, fresh documents. Very old DPAs and AMDs are sometimes viewed with suspicion even though age alone does not invalidate them.