WESTFIELD-As the COVID-19 pandemic has reminded all of us how fragile life can be, this is also a time when people should be having important conversations about legal issues with those they love and trust.
During May, the Westfield Council on Aging is collaborating with officials from Westfield community programming Channel 15 to sponsor a program titled “Getting Your Will, Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney Done While Social Distancing.”
This month’s informative program is hosted by Harry Rock and features W. Rockne Palmer, Esq., who has a law practice at 48 East Silver St., Suite 1. Programs will be aired at 2:30 p.m. on May 12, 14, 19, 21, 26 and 28.
“This topic is important to address at this time because I explain ways to get your documents done while social distancing or even without leaving your home,” said Palmer.
The 35-minute program delves into the intricacies of each document which Palmer notes can be difficult for people to address with others.
“Don’t be afraid of these documents,” said Palmer, adding it is important to choose the people who you “trust and love” to ensure they will act in your best interest.
Palmer is a “general practitioner,” who primarily centers his practice on real estate, probate work, personal injury cases, district court criminal work and civil litigation. He also spent approximately 20 years on the Medical Ethics Committee at Noble Hospital (now Baystate Noble Hospital).
“I learned how important it is to both the medical community and to family members that everybody have a health care proxy in case it is needed,” said Palmer.
Palmer explained that the health care proxy is a “very important document” to have that ensures you appoint a health care agent who knows what your wishes are in the event you are unable to make decisions yourself.
A health care proxy is activated by an attending physician if, for example, a person is in a coma, has dementia, or is unconscious and a medical decision must be made.
Palmer added it is also recommended to have at least two or three people listed on the document in the event the first person on the proxy is unavailable to make a decision.
A durable power of attorney is another legal document that Palmer recommends everyone should have, that appoints someone to deal with money and property issues, as well as someone to handle medical decisions.
“Choose people you trust and give them individual authority,” said Palmer.
Palmer spends the majority of the session discussing the importance of wills, noting when he first talks with clients he always asks – “What do you have and where do you want it to go?”
“Having a will is good and it will make it so much better for those who you left behind,” said Palmer, adding, “the will ensures you have your wishes granted.”
For persons concerned about social distancing guidelines at this time, Palmer said his practice has set up a separate room with a plexiglass shield so witnesses can see documents being signed and everyone is wearing proper personal protective equipment. In addition, he and his staff can come out to the parking lot and complete the legal paperwork if necessary.
“If someone is homebound or not comfortable about leaving home, we can come to your place with witnesses or you can ask neighbors to watch you sign documents,” said Palmer, adding documents can also be emailed or mailed to start the process.
Palmer stressed that people should always be thinking about their future and ensuring plans are in place to help others make the decisions you would want them to make on your behalf.
“While not all lawyers do these documents, almost any lawyer can refer you to someone who does do them,” said Palmer.
Rock closed the program by reminding viewers that educating oneself on all of these documents is an important first step.
“It’s a complex topic and getting respected and trusted advice is important,” said Rock.
The link to view Palmer’s program is https://youtu.be/UqQIckrjHWE.