As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be an ongoing issue for many of us, more questions have arisen regarding the Living Will and extreme measures being taken or not in a situation where you may have contracted the disease.
The benefits of having a Living Will
We've touched on this topic in a previous blog, Coronavirus and the Living Will, but wanted to provide more specific information. Like we have said, Covid-19 is a very peculiar disease since it is ubiquitous and there is no specific treatment or vaccine for the disease. Also, for some people the impact can be very mild and for others the virus can be quite serious. Anytime there is the risk of becoming debilitated to the point you can no longer make rational and informed decisions about your own care, you need something in place (a legal document) that gives someone you trust the legal authority to make those decisions for you, including end of life treatment. A Living Will (a/k/a Advance Directive) is the legal document that does this.
Living Wills are revocable
Keep in mind that if you can make your own decisions, you will be able to continue making decisions for yourself even if you have a Living Will. In other words, by executing a Living Will, you are not divesting yourself of the right to make your own decisions. It is important that you know this since it is possible you may change your mind if you become sick and want something done that is inconsistent with your Living Will. You are not bound by what you state in your Living Will. However, if and when you become incapacitated, your Living Will effectively becomes irrevocable.
Role of your Healthcare Agent
It is only once you can no longer make informed decisions on your own that your healthcare agent would step in to make decisions on your behalf. For example, you are in a coma, or on a ventilator, or too heavily medicated to be aware of your surroundings. Then your agent must direct what to do in terms of life support based on the choices you have made in your Living Will.
Is Your Condition Permanent?
Covid-19 is no different than any other type of disease in terms of your Living Will and how your instructions will be carried out. For instance, if you have the Covid-19 and your Living Will says you do not want extraordinary means to keep you alive, you will nonetheless be placed on a ventilator if it is likely your condition will improve over time. However, if your condition is not likely to improve and your need for artificial breathing and, eventually, nutrition is likely to be permanent, than such measures will be withdrawn or withheld and you will be allowed to die as per your wishes.
Our office will continue to monitor the pandemic closely and provide our clients with as much up to date information as possible. We are equipped with the software and functionality necessary to manage the entire estate planning process on-line without the need to come to our offices. And signing can now be done remotely as well. So visit us at Smart Law and see how simple we have made estate planning.