COVID-19 is prompting many couples to change their living wills

Posted at 1:11 PM, Aug 18, 2020

As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, an increasing number of couples are suddenly revamping their living wills to include specific language about what to do if someone in their family catches the novel coronavirus and may not be able to make medical decisions for themselves.

“I think like a lot of people it certainly caused us to take a step back and say, ‘wow, these types of black swan events happen,’” said Adam Neale, who recently updated his living will.

Neale and his wife, Dorean, say the grim reality of COVID-19 pushed them to finish estate planning they had been putting off for years. But the pandemic hasn't only led to a spike in families planning out their estates, it's also changed the way couples are looking at end-of-life care.

“What we’ve seen is this heightened sense of awareness of people’s mortality, which has created a heightened sense of urgency in the market, explained Denise McCarthy, an estate attorney in the Boston area.

“I don’t think people have thought about ventilators the way they’re thinking about them now.”

McCarthy is now recommending couples write in COVID-19 specific language to their wills, like what to do if one spouse ends up on a ventilator. She also says it's important to appoint a healthcare proxy, clearly putting a spouse or family member in charge of your medical care. It’s something that has become more important now than ever as many hospitals are barring visitors because of COVID-19.

“It’s one less source of stress in a very tough time,” she said.

Nationwide, only about 30 percent of couples have any kind of living will.

That now includes Dorean and Adam Neale, who fully admit a pandemic pushed them to plan for the inevitable.

“For me, the peace of mind was checking the box on something you were supposed to do and something that you should do,” said Dorean Neale.