The COVID-19 pandemic has made the past two years extremely challenging for many people. It has called into question our mortality, and it has been an important reminder of why everyone over the age of 18 needs an estate plan.
While not often top of mind when considering the documents necessary for a comprehensive estate plan, the pandemic has proven the importance of having a health care power of attorney in place. This document, referred to as a patient advocate designation (PAD) in the state of Michigan, appoints one or more individuals who will have the authority to make health care decisions for a patient if that patient becomes unable. Assigning this authority is especially important for young adults who have divorced parents or for those in second marriages with adult children, where a clear designation is needed to avoid conflict within the family during a medical crisis. It is also important to remember that once a child turns 18, that child’s parents will be unable to access their child’s medical records or make health care decisions for their child unless appropriate documentation is in place.
If a medical professional determines an adult patient is unable to make his or her own health care decisions and that patient has not executed a PAD, decisions about that patient’s health care will be made by a medical professional who is unfamiliar with the patient’s wishes, or by someone the court appoints to make the decisions. In the latter instance, the patient’s parent, spouse or other family member will need to file a motion with the court requesting that an order be granted allowing the family member to make medical decisions.
A PAD also allows an individual to describe the treatment he or she does and does not want to receive in the event of a future medical emergency, providing guidance for the designated patient advocate as the advocate makes medical decisions.
Once a PAD has been executed, it is important to revisit the document every few years to ensure those designated as patient advocates are still appropriate in light of any changes, including deaths, marriages or divorces.
During this week of National Estate Planning Awareness, think about your planning needs. If you or a family member has yet to create a comprehensive estate plan, Warner can help you get started. If you have started your planning but have put off signing your documents, make this the time to complete the process.
If you need assistance creating or updating documents for yourself or family members, please contact your Warner estate planning attorney or contact Beth O’Laughlin at email@example.com or 616.396.3118.