TAMPA, Fla. — It's the subject no one wants to think about, much less talk about: What if I get sick? What if I have to go to the hospital alone and scared?
But, if you take the right legal steps now, it can really give you and your family peace of mind.
We are talking about estate planning. It's not just about 'who gets what' if you pass away, it's about who can make decisions for you if you get too sick, both legally and for your health care.
10News reached out to attorney Mara Shaughnessy, who specializes in this, and she says to get things in order now. Particularly in the midst of this pandemic.
We know COVID-19 can go from bad to worse very quickly and put you in the hospital when you least expect it. We've seen it take the lives of hundreds of Floridians and hospitalize thousands already.
"At that time it's too late, you're loved one can't have access to you, the doctor can't talk to you about what your wishes are. So, if you have a will, you can at least have your beneficiaries designated and you can have your estate go to who you want to and if you have a living will at least everyone knows your wishes and who you want to carry them out."
Shaughnessy says there are four legal documents you should have right now:
- A Will: This is important for everyone, especially if you have children.
- A power of attorney: This is the person that will handle all your financial and legal matters.
- A healthcare surrogate: The person who will make decisions about your health care when you are not able to.
- A living will: This lays out your wishes should you become too sick to make decisions or communicate. This is where you would also put DNR orders or do not resuscitate. That means doctors are instructed not to use unnecessary measures to save your life and that would include a ventilator.Shaughnessy says that might be something you want to avoid or change when it comes to this particular pandemic. "Ventilators are being used to save people's lives. We have perfectly healthy people that are falling ill and requiring ventilators, but they're recovering."
It's important to note here, that having these legal papers in order now, while you're healthy may seem stressful, but in a situation where the unexpected happens and you do get sick, it can give both you and your family peace of mind that your wishes are being carried out and it's one less thing to worry about when you need to focus on getting better.
Also, be sure to have copies of these documents with you if you go to the hospital. It can help doctors and nurses tremendously.
You can get these papers drawn up by contacting an estate planning attorney like Shaughnessy. Many are doing meetings over the computer so you don't have to meet in person, however, once the papers are drawn up, you will need to go to the office and have people witness you sign it and have certain papers notarized. That cannot be done electronically in the state of Florida, yet.
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