Given the global crisis created by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID 19), many people urgently wish to make important later life decisions. Prior to COVID 19, they would have created a Health & Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney, which includes a section on life sustaining treatment, but in view of lengthy court delays waiting for registration of the documents, this may no longer be a practical solution. Time here, is of the essence, in a way in which we have never seen before.
In particular, there will be older persons, or those already suffering from a chronic illness, who if further weakened by the horrific COVID 19 virus, would not wish to receive the invasive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or machine assisted ventilation. With survival rates for coronavirus patients admitted to intensive care as low as 50%, it is essential that people’s wishes are respected.
Furthermore, if those who did not want life sustaining treatment put their wishes in writing, the ventilators may be made available to others, who do wish to prolong their life. This means less strain and exposure to the virus as far as the health care staff are concerned, if treatment is refused at the outset, rather than later, as well as less distress for family members.
Such persons may wish to make an Advance Decision, or a Living Will, which can be incorporated into a Lasting Power of Attorney, if desired once the spread of the virus lessens. Advance Decisions take effect from signing and only one non-medical witness is needed. Such signing can be achieved using social distancing, disposable gloves, hand washing before and after the signing, and each person bringing their own pen along to the signing session.
As far as money is concerned, Ordinary Powers of Attorney, can be created. A person would nominate someone of his choosing to make financial decisions on his behalf whilst he has mental capacity. This may be useful for older persons who are not familiar with technology but have younger family members or trusted friends who can manage online accounts during the lockdown. Ordinary Powers of Attorney can be used once the person giving the authority has signed in front of a witness, again saving any delays. Prior to COVID 19, Ordinary Powers of Attorney were rarely used in the light of their limited scope; they would now offer a temporary solution to accessing finances until the virus has weakened its grasp.
Once the threat of COVID 19 is lessened, the person can then create a Property & Affairs Lasting Power of Attorney which is life long, even if the person then loses mental capacity.
For more information about either Advance Decisions or Ordinary Powers of Attorney contact our Later Life Planning Team.