How to Protect Your Healthcare Wishes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

With many people in isolation due to COVID-19, and those that are deemed “essential employees” being put at risk, you may wonder how you can create legal documents regarding your health care and best protect yourself and your family with proper “social distancing.” You may be surprised to find out that you can execute healthcare estate planning documents now while maintaining social distancing and without needing the formality of a notary. What are these healthcare documents and why are they so important at a time like this?

First is a New Hampshire Advanced Directive, which allows you to appoint an agent to handle medical decisions should you be incapacitated and unable to communicate on your own or are unable to make medical decisions. It is a two part document comprising of (1) a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in which you (the “principal”) appoint an agent to handle your medical decisions while honoring what you would want if you had capacity to make the decisions and (2) a “Living Will”, by which you may authorize two physicians or a physician and nurse practitioner to make end-of-life decisions.

These do not kick in unless a physician determines that you do not have the capacity to make health care decisions or to communicate. Once the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care has been activated, your agent takes over and makes decisions that you have authorized your agent to make.

It is important to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care in place because the general rule is that physicians and nurses must treat unless told otherwise. There may be situations in which you would not want to be kept alive. An agent, if authorized, may agree to a “Do Not Resuscitate” Order. If the patient is near death or in a persistent vegetative state, an agent may, if authorized, decline artificial feeding and hydration, can make decisions not to start medical treatment or, if it has been started, to discontinue it. Your agent will have all of the powers that you have to make medical decisions, including continuing care, if that is appropriate.

The “Living Will” is a separate part of the Advance Directive. It allows you to authorize two physicians, or one physician and a nurse practitioner, to make end-of-life decisions for you. You may like having this option; it is like an additional backup, in case the agents that you name cannot make decisions for you. Or, you may decline to execute the Living Will, preferring instead to leave your health care decisions to the agents you appoint. Either choice is fine, but taking steps to execute at least one part of this document is important.

A statute, effective January 1, 2014, made minor changes to the Advance Directive form. If you do not have an Advance Directive, or if you have not updated your Health Care Advance Directive within the past six years, you should consider executing the updated form.

The second important document is a HIPAA Release, named after the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which allows you to name people that you trust with your health information to talk with healthcare providers, even before the Advanced Directive kicks in. If you are in the hospital and want family members or trusted friends to be able to find out how you are doing, sometimes the hospital may require those people to be named in your HIPAA Release before disclosing information about your medical condition. A HIPAA Release will protect your health information from disclosure to people that you do not want to have it. It also enables the people you name to be able to help with follow-up care, appointments, etc.

Now, you may be wondering how to execute these healthcare documents while taking precautions in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Hampshire Advanced Directive can be executed without a notary and with just two disinterested witnesses, meaning two people that are not named in the document to act as your health care agents. Those two witnesses can watch you sign the New Hampshire Advance Directive, and then sign themselves, at least six-feet-apart with proper sanitization measures in place to limit exposure.  Our practice during the pandemic is to have clients sign in the comfort of their car while we watch them sign through the windows and then our witnesses sanitize their hands and sign the documents outside, or, if inclement weather, sign across from each other while wearing masks at a large, disinfected conference table.

The HIPAA Release does not require witnesses or a notary to sign. If you have to go to a hospital or doctor’s office, you can fill out and sign the “in-house” HIPAA Releases there. Many hospitals and medical practices make their HIPAA “Authorizations” available directly on their websites to fill out and return by mail or fax, and others may enable you to download their HIPAA Release form through a “Patient Portal”.

With proper social distancing and proper sanitization, you can protect your healthcare wishes during this uncertain time with an Advanced Directive and HIPAA Release.

By Elaina Hoeppner, Esq. and Katherine B. Miller, Esq.

COVID-19 Message from Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC to Firm Clients and Visitors

As the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation evolves daily, Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC continues to take every measure possible to protect the well-being of our employees, clients and visitors. We have developed a plan and are working to ensure that we will continue to meet our clients’ legal and business needs. The firm has secure technology to enable our attorneys to work remotely and both attorneys and staff to remain accessible to you throughout this challenging time. We are monitoring the situation daily and will adhere to recommendations from WHO, CDC and our local health organizations and government officials.

Your emails and calls will be responded to in a timely manner as we continue to conduct our business. We recommend if emailing, you include both the attorney and the staff person you have been working with.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can be of assistance or if you have any questions. You can reach all our offices through our main line at 603-778-0686.

DTC Lawyers – Dedicated To Clients.

Attorney Kate Miller to Give Presentation on Federal Law Risk Management and Telecommunication Law Update

DTC Partner Katherine B. Miller will be speaking on November 14, 2019, at the conference of the Northern New England chapter of the American Planning Association, at the Mount Washington Hotel, in Bretton Woods, NH. Kate will be on a panel with New Hampshire planners, discussing updates to federal laws that planners should know about. Kate will be covering telecommunications law, including recent changes in federal rules on permitting wireless communications facilities, including granting them access to public rights of way. Her Power Point Presentation is included here.

Kate is the Chair of the Telecommunications and Utilities Practice Groups at DTC.

DTC is Pleased to Welcome Elaina L. Hoeppner

DTC is pleased to announce that Elaina L. Hoeppner has become an Associate with the firm!

Elaina graduated from Western New England University School of Law in 2019. While at Western New England University, Elaina worked at the Elder Law Clinic and interned in the Probate, Family, Civil and Magistrate Courts. Elaina’s practice areas include Estate Planning and Probate, Real Estate and Municipal Law.

Click here for more information on Elaina Hoeppner

DTC to Sponsor American Independence Museum’s Beer for History Series

We are very excited to be sponsoring this year’s American Independence Museum’s Beer for History series. Join us on Thursday, September 26th from 6pm to 8pm at the American Independence Museum’s Folsom Tavern in Exeter, NH for the first event with beer from von Trapp Brewing. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here!

[Photo by Paul Royal]

Click here for article on September 26th event

DTC Ranked Among Top NH Law Firms

DTC is proud to be named among NH top law firms by Business NH Magazine. As always, our valued clients and colleagues make this possible. DTC will continue to serve the needs of our clients in a professional and cost effective manner with a results driven approach.

DTC Atty. Chris Boldt to Speak at OSI Spring Planning and Zoning Conference

Attorney Chris Boldt will once again be presenting at the 2019 Annual Spring Planning and Zoning Conference of the NH Office of Strategic Initiatives (formerly known as the Office of Energy and Planning), scheduled for Saturday, June 1st at the Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH. Chris has again been asked to speak at a double session on the basic procedures ZBA members should use in making their various decisions on variances, special exceptions, appeals of administrative decisions and waivers of dimensional criteria. For more information and on-line registration, please go to http://www.nh.gov/osi.

DTC’s Exeter Office Street Name Change

As of April 2, 2019 the Town of Exeter will officially change our street name from Windsor Lane to Acadia Lane. We have not moved, but we have a new address, 16 Acadia Lane, Exeter, NH.

As some of you may know there was also a Windsor Lane in Brentwood, NH that was causing confusion for clients and deliveries. The Town heard our concerns and voted for the name change. It is our hope that Google Maps and other electronic address sources will show the new street right away. We recommend you call the office at 778-0686 for directions if you have any trouble.

Attorney Sharon Cuddy Somers to Speak at NHBA Continuing Legal Education Series on Condominium Law

Attorney Sharon Cuddy Somers has been selected to be on a panel of speakers who will present on Wednesday, March 27th, to the New Hampshire Bar Association members as part of the NHBA Continuing Legal Education series.  The topic is condominium law and Attorney Somers will be speaking about the statutory framework for condominiums and obtaining local land use approvals for condominiums.

For more information, click here.

DTC is Pleased to Announce that Justin L. Pasay has Become a Member of the Firm

Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC is pleased to announce that Justin L. Pasay has become a member of the firm. Justin joined DTC as an Associate in 2012 after five years of active duty service as a Navy JAG. His experience and practice involves various aspects of municipal law, land use and permitting and civil litigation. Justin graduated cum laude from the Honors Program at the University of New Hampshire and received his J.D. degree from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. He is admitted to Practice in all New Hampshire courts and the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire.  For more information on Justin, click here.