Estate Planning Needs in the Midst of COVID-19 - The Curry Law Firm, PLLC
Estate planning is always important, but a global pandemic definitely accelerates the need to have one today. COVID-19 has forced us to face the reality of our own mortality and consider several “what ifs” that were previously never considered, or just situations that nobody ever likes to think or talk about. Such what ifs involve physical incapacity and even death. To ignore these events as if they could never happen, is a pretense that we cannot afford, and it is better to be prepared than to not. Most people think only the elderly need an estate plan, but in fact we all do – single, married, divorce, parent, sibling, homeowner, business-owner, and the list goes on.
More than 5,000 people have died in the United States within a two week span due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this number is only going to increase. And although we take the utmost safety precautions, this virus is still spreading and impacting the lives of many.
Do not take your health for granted or think that your tomorrow is guaranteed. It is important to consult with an attorney to determine the specific needs for your estate plan, but at a minimum it should the following:
Last Will and Testament: This document allows you to control how your estate will be distributed when you pass away. It provides your family with peace of mind in knowing how and to whom you want your assets allocated. A will also establishes who should be responsible for managing the affairs of your estate, and this person is designated as the Executor.
Financial Power of Attorney (POA): This is also known as a Statutory Durable Power of Attorney and this person is appointed to represent your monetary assets and interest. This person will be able to act in the event that you are unable to, so long as you are still living. The decisions that they make are binding as if you made the decision yourself.
Medical Power of Attorney: This document authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person is only able to step in as a medical agent if it is determined by your doctor that you are incapable of making such decisions, or you are unable to communicate your wishes, for example if you in a coma.
Health Care Directive: This is also commonly referred to as a Living Will. Here will you state what decisions you want to be made in the event that you are unable to speak or communicate for yourself. It is a written document that expresses your wishes about your health care in the event you are diagnosed or suffer with a terminal condition, irreversible vegetable state, or end stage condition. It also makes your organ donor status known and provides your wishes concerning any other health directives that you wish to control.
HIPPA Authorization: This authorizes medical staff and insurance agencies to share your medical history and HIPPA protected information with the designated person. It is important that your Medical Power of Attorney be listed so that they will be well informed of your medical history when making decisions on your behalf.
Guardianship for Minors: This is important to have if you are a parent or guardian of a minor(s). A guardianof a minor is a person that has the powers and responsibilities of a parent concerning the child’s support, care, education, health, and welfare. A minor is any child under the age 18 years old.
When selecting people to fulfill these roles and act on your behalf it is important to choose people who are responsible and wiling to act in your best interest. For medical concerns it may also be important to select someone who lives in close proximity to you, in the event they need to meet with doctors to discuss your medical options.
If you already have an estate plan, then that is great. However, you should review it every two years to account for current assets, as well as the current status of relationships. All estate plans require ongoing maintenance.
It is also imperative to review and update as necessary beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Holders of these accounts should be able to change beneficiaries online.
The Curry Law Firm LLP provides this information as a service to clients and other friends for educational purposes only. It should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking advice from professional advisers.