By Jeremy Summers, Sponsored Content
To say that COVID-19 has had an impact on every single one of us is an understatement. Even if you have been so fortunate as to avoid the virus itself, you have felt its effect on your day-to-day routines and activities. Each of us has had to adapt to the “new normal” in some degree. We are living in the age of a pandemic, and as unfathomable as it may sound, it has altered the way we are able care for our sick, comfort our dying, and grieve for our lost.
First, let’s get directly to the point, making a simple Power of Attorney (POA) and a basic Will is one of the simplest, most important and prudent actions you can undertake that can inform others of your final wishes and to ease burdens on your survivors and caretakers. The vast majority of us do not know the exact moment of when our last breath may come, or when our mental abilities will deteriorate. The whole point of these instruments is to have them in place before such an event happens. If you wait until you have lost your competency or your consciousness, unfortunately, you have already waited until it is too late. There are options available to the families of those who have waited too long to sign, but these options are costly, involve court intervention, and will take some time to put into place.
I always took pride in the fact that my father and I had a law practice that allowed us to travel to a nursing home to help a bedridden client execute a Power of Attorney. I have appreciated the gravity of the moment of sitting bedside in a hospital with the dying as they sign off on their final wishes. I have felt the relief and the weight of worry lift off these clients and their families, and I have witnessed the despair of those who were past the point of my assistance. Unfortunately, in the recent months, that despair has been more common than the relief.
A pandemic changed everything. Early in 2020, our calls began to increase for Wills and POAs, presumably out of fear of the virus. It signaled that more people were concerned enough to start taking simple steps to have their life plans in place. As the weeks wore on, we began to have an influx of calls to visit clients in nursing homes and hospitals that desperately needed Wills or POAs. I remember the first time that we were not allowed to enter a care facility, and we were fortunate enough to have a patient wheeled to the front entrance. We were able to pass papers back and forth under the glass doors to complete the signing. However, as the infected numbers rose and the staff of these places became overwhelmed, we were no longer able to attempt these signings anymore. Hospitals became closed to the general public. Last rites were given via Facetime. Funerals had a very limited capacity. It left us feeling helpless and it was crushing for the families who could not be with their loved ones in their final hours.
As awful as the situation was and is, it is a perfect illustration of why it is so important to go ahead and take a little bit of time and thought, and make your estate plans now. No one could have foreseen how the world changed so quickly, but a Will and a POA are devices that plan for exactly that – the unknown. The same Will that will take care of your family if you died young in a car accident will take care of your family if you died in your elder years from a virus. The same POA that can allow your loved one to take care of you while you were in a temporary coma is the same POA that can allow your loved one to make the excruciating decision to pull you off of a ventilator when your prognosis is poor.
I know it is not the happiest subject to think about, but just a little preparation and time can save you and your family a lot of strife later.
JEREMY P. SUMMERS, ATTORNEY AT LAW
1275 CENTER POINT PARKWAY
BIRMINGHAM, AL 35215