How a NYC Frontline Healthcare Worker Protected Her Family during the COVID-19 Outbreak
by Nancy Larcher August 26, 2020
As New York City became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City Bar Justice Center’s (CBJC) Planning and Estates Law Project (PELP) stepped up to support our city’s dedicated frontline healthcare workers. In March 2020, with the support of outstanding pro bono collaborators Pamela Ehrenkranz of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Michael Arlein of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, PELP launched an initiative to expand existing services to provide free remote legal assistance to our City’s frontline healthcare workers in preparing simple life-planning documents including wills, powers of attorney, designations of standby guardians and health care proxies. Over 60 healthcare workers, including their families and closed loved ones, reached out to PELP for legal assistance during the outbreak of COVID-19.
The client story below captures the work PELP engaged in to support frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic:
Ms. N is an ER nurse at a NYC hospital and is the single mother of a baby girl. She lives in Queens with her daughter and her elderly mother. As the pandemic worsened, with hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, Ms. N was faced with the fear of leaving her family unprotected if she were to become infected with the virus. She told PELP:
“COVID-19 hit us suddenly – I intended to get my will done before all of this started but [the pandemic] put [everything] into perspective. You see so much life and death in the ER and it got worse as time went on. I thought about my mom and my daughter… I wanted to keep things simple for them if anything happened to me.”
Upon learning about the healthcare workers initiative through an announcement from her employer, Ms. N immediately called PELP’s intake line for assistance with organizing life-planning documents. Ms. N connected with a PELP team member who initiated a phone intake to assess her needs and determine the best way the Project could help. Soon after the screening, PELP was able to assign the client’s case to a pro bono attorney who quickly volunteered to take on the matter understanding the urgency of the situation.
Ms. N reported having a positive experience with the pro bono attorney assigned to her case. The client was new to the intricacies of life-planning, and she noted the volunteer was very patient with her as she walked her through her rights and helped her determine next steps. The volunteer drafted Ms. N’s will, power of attorney, health care proxy, and standby guardianship several times until the client felt satisfied and comfortable with the final versions. She also assisted with the remote execution of the documents.
Ms. N expressed feeling reassured and empowered during the process. With her life-planning documents in place, she felt relieved knowing her daughter had been assigned a guardian and that her mother would be taken care of if anything were to happen to her. Ms. N was so satisfied with her experience that she referred her elderly mother to PELP for assistance with organizing her own life-planning documents!
Nancy Larcher is the Project Coordinator for the Planning & Estates Law Project.
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