Although we hope none of you reading this or any of your family members come down with COVID-19, I wanted to mention why having certain estate planning documents in place now can be so important. While wills and trusts, which typically deal with handling a person’s estate when they die, are certainly important, the most immediate need right now is to have powers of attorney and health care directives in place.

The issue is most acute for the residents of the elder care facilities in Florida, all of which are now on mandatory lock-down with no visitors allowed. If the resident has signed a comprehensive durable power of attorney and named a health care surrogate, the person they have named can take virtually any action on their behalf that comes up, including dealing with their insurance companies, banks, investment houses, and real estate.  And with the appropriate health care directives, the person they name can get the information they need from their health care providers and make appropriate decisions for treatment and care, if needed. Without those documents in place, taking actions on behalf of the resident, and even communicating with their health care providers, may be difficult or impossible.

Similar concerns arise for those in the “high-risk” group (over 65 and/or with chronic health conditions) who may be more likely to end up in the hospital or otherwise incapacitated by the virus.  Even though for now they can handle their own affairs, they need to have a power of attorney and health care directives in place in case they end up in the hospital or are otherwise incapacitated.

Of course, I recommend that everyone over the age of 18 have those documents in place, and I encourage you to get them done if you don’t have them, since pandemic or not, we never know what the future may bring.

Law firms are considered “essential services” under Orange County Mayor Demings’ current stay-at-home order, so Dunegan Law is open and ready to help.  We are limiting meetings to telephone and video conferencing, but we have full capabilities to prepare documents and get them out for signing if needed.  Please feel free to call if we can assist you or a loved one at this difficult time.