Planning for the Unexpected in an (Almost) Post-Covid World

The after-effects of the Covid pandemic will likely be manifold. Many of us are now adept at working from home and may never return to the office.  Videoconferences are becoming the new norm. And we can now enjoy the warmth of a handshake, a hug, and the company of others with a new sense of appreciation.

One less-talked-about effect of putting Covid behind us is a heightened sense of our own mortality. You or someone you know may have become ill during the pandemic. Or you may simply have been overwhelmed by the flood of posts about the virus on social media and the news. Whatever your experience with Covid has been, it is natural to feel vulnerable, anxious, and surprisingly mortal.

It is up to each of us, then, to try to reclaim our own peace of mind. We need to look after ourselves and do what we can for others, especially those closest to us. In addition to reconnecting with loved ones as we cautiously come out of isolation, we should think about planning for the unexpected.

Think of having these documents drawn up as a gift to yourself.

Suffering from a serious illness is something many of us have now seen firsthand. By preparing an advance directive, you can help to ensure that if you should ever fall ill, someone you trust will be authorized to make medical decisions on your behalf. This could be a partner, spouse, close relative, or trusted friend.

Having an advance directive is especially important if you are not legally married. The law gives medical decision-making authority to a spouse, but not to an unmarried partner or a friend. Even if you are married, an advance directive should name a backup health care agent in case your spouse can’t manage your medical care if the need arises.

An advance directive also says what kind of care you would like to receive in an end-of-life situation, such as a terminal illness. Most people choose “comfort care,” which includes pain relief but no “heroic measure” to try to prolong life when there is no hope of recovery.

While someone is handling your health care during a hospital stay or other period of incapacity, your financial and legal affairs at home may need tending to as well. For that, you should have a second document, called a durable power of attorney. With this in hand, your “attorney in fact” can pay your bills, file your taxes, and even sell your home if your incapacity appears to be permanent.

What if the unexpected becomes the inevitable? When your life becomes your legacy, having a will is essential to providing for the people, and perhaps the causes, you care about. Just as important as saying who gets what, your will appoints a “personal representative” (executor) to settle your estate and ensure that your final wishes are carried out.

Think of having these documents drawn up—a will, durable power of attorney, and advance directive—as a gift to yourself. You can then take comfort in knowing that you are ready for some of life’s most significant uncertainties. Think of it also as a gift to the people closest to you, who will now be provided for even after you are gone. Thanks to the new normal Covid has created, it’s easier than ever to get started. A Zoom call with an Estates & Trusts attorney is all it takes to begin reclaiming your own peace of mind.