Why living wills are more important than ever

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — One of the executive orders Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced Tuesday opened the door for electronic notary.

This will allow families to safely prepare living wills during this time.

Health providers say having this conversation now will help save resources during the COVID-19 surge.

“We need patients and families to help us get up to speed,” said Indiana University Health Nurse Ethicist Lucia Wocial.

During a pandemic, time and resources are limited. Doctors say family of patients without a living will have to make important decisions over the phone.

“Because we can’t have face-to-face conversations, even with the loved ones of someone who is very ill, you can only imagine what it is like,” said Dr. David Mandelbaum, medical director of the Department of Palliative Medicine at Franciscan Health and Hospice.

He said this heartbreaking situation is entirely preventable.

“At this point in time, with everything going on in the world, you can name, you can select a healthcare representative without having to go through an estate planning attorney,” said Dr. Mandelbaum.

Printable living will forms exist on the state’s website. For a more in depth process, you can hire an estate attorney.

“Where did the person bank? Where are their finances? Where are their investments? And if someone really did get called to do these activities, would they even know where to begin?” said estate planning attorney Jennifer Norton.

With Governor Holcomb’s new executive order, these documents can be notarized electronically for the first time. It’s something estate lawyers like John Terry with Cate, Terry and Gookins LLC have been lobbying for permanently.

“Indiana could take the lead in this kind of virtual world that we are now starting to live in,” said Terry.

As providers prepare for a potential lack of ventilators or other life saving equipment, they ask Hoosiers to have a clear understanding of their loved one’s “end of life” decisions.

“Doesn’t it make sense to sort of prevent patients from being placed on ventilators who really don’t want to be?” asked Mandelbaum.

The process of creating a living will doesn’t have to be morbid or depressing.

“How I encourage my clients to think about it: it’s not about your death, it’s about the life that you are trying to set up for your loved ones,” said Norton.

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