Two patients arrived at the local hospital’s emergency room one night. Both had suffered strokes that left them unable to communicate. One family showed up with estate planning documents. The other did not. Is it ever possible to draw up estate plans in the ER?
Patricia has no estate plans drawn up. Her Will would not help handle her incapacity. What she needs right now is a durable power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, an advance directive, and possibly a living Will. As the hospital staff work on Patricia N., her family scrambles to find any estate planning documents she has signed. They need to know her wishes for end-of-life treatment, should the time come to consider it. Since she didn’t name an agent to act on her behalf in a durable power of attorney, her financial affairs will be neglected. The doctors are not authorized to speak to her family members, because she didn’t sign a health care power of attorney. The awful truth sets in. She didn’t plan for this and now it’s too late. She no longer has the ability – the capacity – to make decisions for herself.
Thomas has an estate plan. He even took the time to meet with his family about it. He named agents in his durable power of attorney and health care power of attorney, then shared copies of his estate planning documents with them. As his anxious family waits in the Emergency Room, his powers of attorney are handed to hospital staff and doctors. They can rest assured that they can now discuss Thomas N.’s medical condition and financial affairs with his agents. If the time comes to consider long-term care or end-of-life treatment, they can be confident they are doing what Thomas wants, even if he is not able to speak to them.
Can we sign estate planning documents in the ER?
It’s entirely possible for individuals to sign estate planning documents in the Emergency Room – if they have the capacity, or the ability, to do so. Someone who has suffered an illness or injury that prevents them from communicating will lack the capacity to make decisions about and sign estate planning documents.
How can you make sure this does not happen to your family?
People of all ages need estate plans. However, estate planning is particularly critical for people who are elderly or who suffer from serious health conditions.
The attorneys at Adams & Miller understand the estate planning needs of their clients. Contact Adams & Miller, P.C. at 256-251-2137 to schedule an appointment. We help clients in Anniston, Talladega, Birmingham, Gadsden and surrounding communities.