Minnesota Legal Blog

Pandemic Estate Planning: Health Care Directives and Powers of Attorney

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Estate Planning |

Maybe you’re young and healthy, but you’re unnerved by all that’s happening. Maybe you can’t get your hands on a cloth or N95 mask and you need to do something to feel a little better. Or maybe you’re one of the alarmingly many who are facing economic uncertainty and you want some planning in place to control your increasing anxiety. In any event, here are two things you can do right now to calm your mind.

Draft your health care directive and power of attorney! These documents are just part of any well-made estate plan, of course, but we think these are among the most important because they affect you now while you’re alive. They can even affect if you are alive as your health care agent is responsible for choosing when to cease care. It is a great start to your estate planning even if you just get these in place now.

A health care directive has two primary parts. First, it outlines who should make health care decisions for you if you’re unable to speak for yourself. You could select a parent, a sibling, an adult child, a friend, or even a company, but obviously you shouldn’t select your arch enemy. This person will be making big decisions about the care you receive-and even if you receive care-so this needs to be someone you trust and who will honor your wishes. The second part outlines those wishes; you explain to your agent what you do and do not want in as specific or as general detail as you desire.

A power of attorney enables your attorney-in-fact (whomever you choose) to manage your business affairs for you. Basically, they can sign their name anywhere you would sign your name. They certainly don’t have carte blanche, but it’s still an extraordinary amount of power to grant another person so you need to carefully select your attorneys-in-fact. Clients are sometimes understandably uncomfortable with this. Let me tell you from experience, not having a power of attorney when one is needed is a slow, expensive pain in the rear. This is definitely worthwhile to prepare and tuck away for a rainy day.

I feel strongly that every person, rich or poor, freshly 18 or 118 years old, should have these two documents. Take this time to get them done! We can return to the rest of your planning sometime in the future when you’re ready.