Written by attorney Jesse Baez
My aunt is fighting for her life right now against COVID-19 with the help of a ventilator, sedation, and non-stop medical care in the ICU. Unfortunately, doctors are unsure of her prognosis. Her entire situation highlights the importance of having a basic estate plan in place— meaning a will, power of attorney, and advanced medical directive. My family is living through the consequences of my aunt not having these documents when we need them most. I’d like to illustrate what my family is going through so you and your family can avoid a similar situation and be prepared.
My aunt is single and she works as an aide at a rehabilitation facility in Queens, New York, which as you probably know is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. We now have to take into consideration how to manage my aunt’s estate while she is incapacitated from the virus. For one, like many Americans, she has a mortgage payment due on the first of each month. She has several bank accounts, but no other family member is named on the account. Her paycheck is not directly deposited into her bank, nor are her bills on auto-pay. Our family is essentially blocked from accessing her funds to pay her debts, and we are all contemplating pitching in to pay for her home and car.
She also has several credit card balances that we only discovered by running a credit report. As with her other debts, we are also trying to figure out how to address these payments. We are unsure whether my aunt has a power of attorney document, since all of her important information is in a safety deposit box at a bank that is not returning our phone calls.
What can we all learn here? First, make sure you have the proper estate planning in place, and that you immediately give a certified copy of your will, power of attorney, and advanced medical directive to your selected agents and your close family members. An executed power of attorney document in our hands would avoid many of the obstacles in our way right now.
My aunt also has two cats that need immediate care. Most shelters are conditioning care on a negative COVID-19 test for the cats by a veterinarian and a valid power of attorney. This goes to show you how important this document can be in the right hands. An advanced medical directive could also further give us clarity as to what she wants regarding her medical care. I pray and hope we won’t have a need for a will.
Additionally, pay your bills the modern way— online banking is a wonderful thing. Set up bill-pay and auto-pay. Directly deposit your earnings into your bank account to pay these bills each month.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly next to the estate planning documents themselves, keep a list of all your usernames and passwords for your online accounts. Be sure this document also lists all your bank accounts, liabilities, and the debts you owe monthly. Securely provide this list to your power of attorney and close family members.
For more information on estate planning, or for help with any family, criminal law, or personal injury matter, call our firm at 804-362-8903.
This post is provided as an educational service and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers in need of assistance with a legal matter should retain the services of competent counsel.