“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” – Wayne Huizenga
Are you the owner of an SME (Small Medium Enterprise? Or, are you perhaps the owner of a new start-up that is designed to grow into a global conglomerate? Or, are you maybe a self-employed freelancer or consultant who is leveraging the global village that we live in?
The new normal: Setting the scene
There is no doubt that we are living in interesting, if not challenging times. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, had become a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. At the current moment, at least 50% of the world’s population is at home under varying levels of lockdown or stay-at-home orders. All non-essential businesses have closed for the foreseeable future. And, companies that can move their business operations online have done so with staff members working remotely from home.
Why is this relevant to this conversation?
The salient point here is that this virus causes a respiratory illness, and it is racing through the world's population. The WHO has stated that one of the best ways, if not the only way to control the virus's spread, is social distancing. Hence, the stay-at-home orders.
The caveat here is that the world's population cannot stay at home 100% of the time for the foreseeable future. People need to go out to the shops to buy food and other essential items. And, it is sometimes necessary to seek medical attention. Also, people are allowed out once or twice a day for exercise in countries where most of the population lives in apartment or tenement buildings.
One of the biggest challenges that the medical and scientific world faces is that there is not enough available information on the virus’s behavior, making it extremely difficult to treat and control.
There is the unique phenomenon that at least 25% of the people infected are known as super spreaders. Ergo, they are infected but are asymptomatic. And, they seem to be more contagious than the average person. Consequently, they can infect between tens and hundreds of people as they go about their daily business, especially if they form part of the group of people who have to go to work every day.
Power of attorney: What, why, how?
Therefore, as highlighted by ejrosenlaw.com, it is essential as a self-employed individual to put measures into place that will guide a responsible third-party on how to manage your business if you contract the virus.
Therefore, let's look at a legal definition of the term “Power of Attorney” (POA):
Investopedia.com defines the term, power of attorney, as a “legal document giving one person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to act for another person (the principal).”
The Power of Attorney: Practical examples
In other words, should you become seriously ill as a consequence of the coronavirus, a trusted person (the agent) will have the legal power to act on your behalf. A typical example of a POA in the “new normal” is a medical POA.
Let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that you are ill, need to be hospitalized, are unable to speak, and the doctors are recommending that you be intubated and put on a manual ventilator. However, you have made it clear that you do not wish to be intubated. Who communicates your wishes to the medical professionals? And, who signs the necessary paperwork? The salient answer to these questions is: The person whom you have appointed to be your POA will communicate with the doctors and other medical staff.
For similar reasons, you might be seriously ill and are unable to make business decisions that have legal implications.
Again, let’s assume you have contracted the coronavirus, and, although you are self-isolating at home, you are too sick to conduct your business affairs. And one of the issues that must urgently be dealt with is the negotiations around the deferment of the repayment of business loans. The only person who can conduct these negotiations on your behalf is someone who is legally authorized to speak on your behalf. If you have drawn up a POA, then it will not be a problem for your authorized representative to consult with the lending authority.
While we live in extremely stressful times where no one knows what the future holds, it is essential not to get caught up into the drama of the occasion. It is best to embrace the opportunities found within any crisis, especially the COVID-19 pandemic. And, it is vital to put mechanisms into place to protect yourself, your family, and your business in the event of an emergency. As emphasized above, the best route to follow is to consult with an attorney to draw up a POA that covers all eventualities.