Estate Planning: The Danse Macabre with Covid-19
It is without a doubt that sickness slows down the events in each person’s life, sometimes leading to death. And during the time of the “Black Plague”, the Danse Macbre showed how death was personified summoning persons from all social classes to dance along to the grave for the unfortunate few as a memento mori (a reminder of the fragility of our lives, and the vanity of life).
Today, as each of us face the pandemic of the Covid-19 (Corona virus), in addition to staying healthy, all of us must consider whether we have completed our estate planning as a duty and obligation owed to our family or loved ones in the event that a sickness takes a turn for the worse leading to death.
Plan for your Family – Powers of Attorney and Wills
In any situation where a person is unable to make or communicate a medical decision or is unable to comprehend a prescriptive course of medical treatment in order to give informed consent, it is always prudent to have a health care power of attorney in place. Why? Because a health care power of attorney or health care proxy authorizes another person to make a medical decision for you if you are unable to do so. Without a health care power in place, the laws of surrogacy will control by default who will make a decision for you. And depending on the whether there is a surrogate available to act on your behalf, it may become necessary for a guardianship, which during this fragile time, Courts are limiting hearings of this type.
Likewise, if you are unable to manage your finances for any reason during a sickness, then there is no better remedy to help with managing your checking account, car payments, and grocery bills than to have a designated individual serve as your attorney-in-fact under a financial power of attorney who will have the authority to manage your finances.
But do not forget, that with few exceptions under Arizona law, a financial power of attorney terminates upon your death. (see A.R.S. §14-5504). So, it is equally important that you consider the need to plan for the distribution of your Estate upon your death through the preparation of a last Will and Testament, or the use of a Living Trust.
And lest we not forget that it is entirely possible for a sickness such as the Covid-19 to turn fatal, each person should consider the need to prepare a Living Will or Directive to a Physician.
It is important to remember not only the types of medical treatment you do not want, but also the treatment you would desire to receive. For example, one might include the following statutory provision in a Living Will:
“I do want the use of all medical care necessary to treat my condition until my doctors reasonably conclude that my condition is terminal or is irreversible and incurable, or I am in a persistent vegetative state.” (see A.R.S. §36-3262)
Although such a provision may not be for everyone, this certainly contemplates that you would want medical treatment at the present time if you were no longer able to communicate your wishes.
Forget not those in Need
Finally, it is easy in in this wearisome time, to focus only on our family and friends. But we must not forget those who have no one to care for them – those in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and those who wander the streets.
As you contemplate your own planning and what you can do to provide for your loved ones, take an extra moment during this difficult time, and help those in need; if not directly because of the desire to keep a “social distance”, then at least, provide some financial support to the organizations that assist the needy.
After all, we can be absolutely certain that each of us at some point in our life are going to participate in the Danse Macabre with sickness and death since “Death” does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, wealth, education, religion, or social status.
For more information or if you have questions, please contact our Estate Planning Attorneys at (520) 624-8886 to make an appointment.
IMPORTANT: Neither this blog article nor any information on this website shall be construed as the offering or rendering of any legal advice and does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mesch Clark Rothschild, (“MCR”) or any attorney at MCR. You should consult with an attorney if you have a specific question regarding your legal issues.