COVID-19 has prompted innovation and legislative updates in terms of the way that lawyers can assist our clients with estate and incapacity planning.  A new tool created by a professor at my alma matter, Queen’s University, has recently emerged to supplement formal planning by making it easier for clients to create end-of-life treatment plans and to discuss their end-of-life wishes with their families and health care teams.

The Plan Well Guide is a free online tool that allows users to formulate a “Dear Doctor letter”, which can be provided to a physician for discussion and can be reviewed with family members (or otherwise an attorney or guardian of personal care) to ensure an understanding of the person’s wishes during a health crisis.  The website also includes other information and resources relevant to end-of-life decision making.

I went through the process of creating an end-of-life plan using this resource and found it to be user-friendly and straightforward.  Some highlights of the Plan Well Guide include the following:

  • There are prompts that ask whether a user has a Power of Attorney for Personal Care and Will in place, which may act as a prompt to obtain a lawyer’s assistance if necessary.
  • The website illustrates the user’s wishes, with examples to confirm the accuracy of the information that the user inputs.  Where the illustration is not consistent with the user’s actual wishes, the user can go back to modify priorities to better reflect their wishes.
  • Quizzes to ensure proper understanding of terms such as ICU treatment, comfort care, and the nature of resuscitation.
  • There are prompts for both outstanding questions or issues for discussion with a healthcare provider and explanations of wishes to provide those reading the document with a better understanding of the user’s rationale behind their wishes.

Especially in the midst of the current pandemic, tools like this that make end-of-life planning more accessible, while having the potential to expose deficiencies in incapacity or estate planning and encouraging an open discussion of wishes in terms of medical treatment, can be helpful resources.

Thank you for reading.

Nick Esterbauer

 

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