March 19, 2020
The Importance of Power of Attorney Documents During Times of Uncertainty
The world is currently facing a severe and ever-evolving threat unlike any other in recent history—the Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Every day we unpack more information about this pandemic—who it affects, how it evolves, and how we should respond. The number of those affected has rapidly climbed each day. The people experiencing the most severe symptoms—those over 60 years of age, and people with chronic health conditions— as well as the general public are asking, “How can we protect ourselves and our families during this troubling time?”
Medical professionals urge everyone to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds multiple times a day, not to touch their faces, and keep a vigilant distance from others. However, medical approaches are only one piece of the preparedness puzzle. Methods for adapting to the Coronavirus should be as dynamic and widespread as the illness itself.
It is especially vital to have a comprehensive estate plan in place—and if you’re thinking that estate plans only address your wishes for after your death, you might be pleased to know that there are key documents that could protect you now, while you’re still alive. The most time-sensitive, urgently-needed of those tools as the Coronavirus spreads in the U.S. are the Medical Power of Attorney and Financial Power of Attorney.
The Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA) should be thorough and clear, naming a “patient advocate” to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. This involves preferences for the care you do or do not want, as well as instructions regarding life-sustaining treatment (i.e. life support and end of life decision-making). Importantly, if you do not have an MPOA, that meets all of the necessary requirements by law, your loved ones will likely have to go to probate court to request the authority to make medical decisions for you, perhaps even establishing guardianship over you.
One major hitch in that already stressful scenario—many of the courts in the state of Michigan are closing to slow the spread of the Coronavirus. Even emergency court hearings could be delayed due to overwhelmed health and court systems. This means that your family could have to wait several months to make medical decisions for you, thus delaying your care as your family anguishes in the uncertainty. Having an MPOA would help prevent that from happening.
The Financial Power of Attorney (FPOA) is equally important. This document designates an “agent” to manage your finances when you desire or require the assistance. The FPOA has even more requirements under the law and can be a major headache for you and your family if not done correctly. If your agent has not been expressly granted all the powers needed to help you with any given task, it is very likely your loved ones would have to go to probate court to seek a conservatorship. This is a common problem with FPOA documents that are only five or six pages long. If the courts are closed and you become unable to manage your finances because of illness, without a comprehensive FPOA your family could have to wait several months to simply pay a bill or make a deposit on your behalf. FPOAs should be over 20 pages long and list a number of specific powers to be the most effective long-term protection for you and your family.
Knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect you and your family provides peace of mind during these stressful and uncertain times. Your preparedness must extend beyond current preventative medical methods to truly and holistically plan for the days, months, and years ahead. Arming yourself with an MPOA and FPOA is essential for any person over the age of 18. If you created these documents a few years ago, there have been significant changes in law that could require them to be updated. Also, if you are married, each spouse needs his or her own MPOA and FPOA. If you do not have an MPOA and FPOA, or if you would like to have your documents reviewed for changes in law, Castle Wealth Group is offering in-person, virtual, and phone consultations at this time. Our attorneys are here to help families legally prepare to meet the challenges of the Coronavirus head-on. Contact our office today at 844-885-4200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on what Castle Wealth Group is doing to protect our clients and staff read more here…