Getting Healthcare Documents in Place During COVID-19
Attorney Rob Slutsky of Slutsky Elder Law has been practicing law since 1992 with a primary focus on helping families navigate the eldercare maze. Today, families face a new challenge – navigating the maze of healthcare, finances, and all the paperwork that goes along with it under the shadow of the COVID-19 crisis.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a sad reminder that life can change in an instant. Having the proper legal documentation in place will help ensure that your healthcare and financial wishes are followed even if you can no longer make decisions for yourself.
Making Decisions in a Difficult Time
While legal services are deemed an essential service in all states and practices remain open to support their clients, there are hurdles to navigate to ensure the health and safety of clients and staff.
Consultations are still happening, but, by and large, these discussions now take place by phone or Zoom conferences. New procedures have been established to make sure that documents can still be executed in a timely fashion. Despite these challenges, elder law attorneys are working hard to meet the needs of their clients.
While elder law attorneys are ready and available, some families may still find it challenging to make use of their services.
“There is a type of paralysis that has set in,” Rob explains. “Many of my clients are adult children of older adults. They are quarantining at home with kids while working from home. Their productivity overall is lower. People are overwhelmed.”
As states begin to cautiously reopen, this is the time to take the lessons COVID-19 has taught us about being prepared for any possible emergency and turn them into action.
How to Get Started with an Elder Law Attorney
When meeting with an elder law attorney about your family’s needs, come prepared to answer a wide range of questions about the family make up and finances.
Rob shares, “Typically, when I am meeting with a new client, I will want to get an understanding of the family dynamics. How many marriages? How many kids and what marriage are they from? If there are minor children, who will care for them?”
Other important information to share with your elder law attorney includes:
- A picture of the current finances including what names titles are in.
- A list of assets – individual assets, joint assets, retirement assets, real estate, etc.
- An understanding of who you trust to make decisions if you and/or your spouse are no longer able to make those decisions yourself.
What You Need to Put in Place Right Now
“Everyone needs a basic estate plan,” says Rob. “It’s the most important thing people need to have – especially if there are healthcare issues. You need a power of attorney. It’s such an important document.
“When you get sick, you are acting under the gun, timewise. When you die, time is less of an issue. In the hospital, if you are on your second or third marriage and have several kids who may be at odds with your current partner, there is a hierarchy under the law about who makes decisions, and you might not like it.”
For example, one thing many people don’t realize is that even if a spouse is the beneficiary of a 401(k) plan, they can not access it or make changes to it while their spouse is incapacitated without having a power of attorney set up. The spouse would need to go to court to gain access which can be time-consuming in the best of circumstances.
“Documents do matter,” says Rob.
This is even more true under the specter of COVID-19. Individuals with no health issues have contracted COVID-19 and quickly become unable to make their own decisions. Meanwhile, court proceedings have been limited due to stay-home orders and restrictions on gatherings. Families without paperwork already set up to allow them to make financial and healthcare decisions have been forced to scramble to get the approvals they need.
While the COVID-19 crisis is bringing these concerns to the forefront, they are true even when we aren’t facing a pandemic. Accidents and illnesses can hit families out of the blue. The best way to spell out your healthcare wishes and protect your family is to have that paperwork in place long before it's needed.
Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care provides support to patients and families facing serious chronic and terminal illnesses. To learn more about our services, please call 1-888-564-3405.
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