Do I Need a Durable Power of Attorney If I Get Sick with COVID-19?

If COVID-19 strikes, would you need a power of attorney? With the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be wondering as to whether or not you have everything you need in order if you become ill. Unfortunately, it often takes extremes for many people to realize they may not have the proper protocols put in place in the event an illness or accident renders them incapable of handling necessary decisions.

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney provides another individual with the ability to handle certain issues on your behalf. You can have a power of attorney that puts someone in charge of your financials only, your health care only, legal issues, or one that incorporated all three.

What Is the Main Difference Between a Regular Power of Attorney and a Durable Power of Attorney?

A general power of attorney can handle any legal, financial, or medical matters for you unless you are deemed medical incompetent. Limited powers of attorney can be applied, which will be used only for specific situations, such as making a major purchase on your behalf when you cannot be there. For example, buying a car. 

The primary difference between a regular power of attorney and a durable power of attorney is when it expires. A durable POA can extend the ability of the person making decisions on your behalf, allowing them to continue to make decisions even if you are deemed incompetent. These can be better for dealing with possible medical emergencies where you may be unable to make reasonable decisions or if you suffer from a cognitive decline. 

General Durable Power of Attorney v. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

A general durable power of attorney will grant someone the power to represent your wishes on a wide range of legal and business issues and will remain in effect if you have become incapacitated. You can also set it up to only go into effect in the event that you are incapacitated. The person named can be anyone you designate, and they will have the power to perform many actions on your behalf, such as:

  • Buying and selling a property
  • Managing your bills
  • Handling bank accounts
  • Managing investments
  • Filing tax returns
  • Applying for government benefits

A durable healthcare power of attorney is more often used when you are in some way incapacitated and unable to make decisions regarding your care. When this occurs, the person you have appointed with the healthcare power of attorney will be able to communicate with your doctors and help make medical decisions on your behalf. 

What Happens if You Don’t Have Durable Power of Attorney?

In the event that you become incapacitated and do not have a general power of attorney, your family may be required to go to court and have you declared incompetent before they would be able to take over your medical and financial decisions for you. This makes having one in place extremely beneficial and less stressful for your family. 

How to Name or Remove a Power of Attorney

While there are DIY power of attorney forms out there, it is best to speak with an attorney so that you can ensure that you have the right document filed for your particular situation. They can discuss with you your options and help draft a document that will be in line with what you want to happen in the event you are incapacitated. Once the document is drafted, you will need to provide the person you have designated with certified copies so that they can present them when signing paperwork or making decisions on your behalf. 

If you decide that you no longer want a power of attorney, or you wish to designate another person to have that power, you can revoke a power of attorney at any time as long as you have not been deemed mentally incompetent. You will need to revoke the power in writing and should also notify any financial institutions that may have had the POA on file. 

In the event that a family member wishes to override the power of the attorney of another family member, the situation can be more difficult. There are some cases where loved ones may be afraid that someone with power of attorney over their loved one is abusing that position. In this case, it will take legal action for the person’s position to be removed. 

Should the COVID-19 Pandemic Be a Reason to Name a Durable Power of Attorney?

With so many uncertainties and how quickly the virus can be devastating for some, having a durable power of attorney in place in the event you come incapacitated with the virus can be a way to ensure that your needs are met, and your personal business is taken care of in the event you contract the virus. In truth, having a durable power of attorney in place in the event of a major accident or medical injury is a wise move, no matter the current situation, but it may be more at the forefront of your mind when a terrible virus is sweeping across the country. 

Reasons to Have a Durable Power of Attorney in Place During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There are many reasons to consider obtaining a durable power of attorney in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. With a durable power of attorney in place, you will be able to:

Ensure You Have Someone to Communicate With Your Doctors

While many of the coronavirus cases have mild symptoms, when hospitalization is required, it means the patient can become sick very quickly. When this occurs, it can mean that they may quickly become unable to make informed decisions about their healthcare. Having a durable power of attorney will allow you to have someone who can make split decisions on your treatment on your behalf, even over the phone. This can help allow you to receive quicker treatment, that may be delayed by family members arguing about the best course of action. 

They Can Communicate Your Wishes as to Whether or Not You Want Intubation or a Ventilator

Unfortunately, severe virus cases require breathing intervention to allow the patient to get oxygen as quickly as possible. The quickest two ways for this to happen is through intubation and the use of a ventilator. While most doctors will advance with these processes unless they believe there is no hope of recovery, traditional directives can be both interpreted and implemented differently during a time of panic. Medical professionals have to make hard and fast decisions when faced with many patients in respiratory distress, and since the virus is novel, they may be unsure of which cases can result in recovery and which will not. 

To ensure that your wishes are heard, you should have an advanced directive as to whether or not you are willing to go through these invasive procedures in an attempt to recover, and have a person with a durable power of attorney to ensure that those wishes are communicated and followed. You can even address what protocols you would like followed in the event you contract the virus, versus other situations. For example, if you wish to have a ventilator tried but don’t’ want to be intubated and put on life support, add that into your document as well. 

Living Wills Do Not Replace POAs

Many people may confuse a living will with a POA. While these can complement each other, the living will not replace the POA. A living will can provide loved ones with your wishes in the event that you have a terminal condition. It does not cover other types of medical treatment, which can occur when you are capacitated, such as dialysis and blood transfusion. To have someone make decisions on your behalf, you will need to have a durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions. 

Choosing Your Attorney-in-Fact

The person who you designate to hold your power of attorney will be referred to as your attorney-in-fact. This person will have access to your financial accounts, legal information, and medical records, and will be able to make decisions for you regarding one or all of these areas, depending on how your POA is set up. Therefore, when choosing your attorney-in-fact, you will need to make sure it is someone you can trust. You will also want to appoint someone who shares your same views and can keep their emotion out of decisions to ensure that your wishes are appropriately followed. If you choose to, you can also appoint more than one person or a person for each facet, such as one for health care, on for finances, and one for legal matters.

Contact a Law Firm to Set Up Your Durable Power of Attorney

Everyone has different needs and issues, so finding experienced legal counsel to help you draft your durable power of attorney can ensure that you get the type of document you need that aligns with both your wants and needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and put your mind at ease during this time of uncertainty.