Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Imagine a scenario where you suddenly find yourself sick, in the hospital, incapacitated, no longer able to pay your bills, manage your assets or even make medical decisions. With the outbreak of COVID-19, this scenario is not only a growing concern but unfortunately, a growing reality.
If you were to become incapacitated without the proper Estate Planning documents in place, you and your family could be at serious financial and medical risk.
Following are some common issues that families experience when a loved one becomes incapacitated without the proper Estate documents in place: 1. There is no one to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your medical wishes;
2. Fighting and stress over what medical decisions should be made for you because your wishes weren’t documented;
3. Inability to access your bank accounts to pay the bills or carry out day to day functions.
As illness and infection are real possibilities, perhaps now more than ever it is imperative to assess your assets and intentions to ensure you have an estate plan that aligns with your wishes. The following documents are the foundation for any estate plan: REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST: A Revocable Living Trust is an important tool because it either holds your assets during life or receives them after your death, which allows you to direct the management and distribution of your assets. Such property management can be especially helpful during a disability or illness, and it also avoids a costly and time-consuming legal guardianship proceeding if you become incompetent. If a Revocable Living Trust is fully funded during life, or beneficiary designations are properly coordinated to fund the trust immediately upon death, a probate may be avoided.
WILL: A Will works as the main dispositive document to move your assets to your Revocable Living Trust upon death. In a Will, you appoint who pays your bills and distributes your remaining assets after your death. FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY: A Financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to handle your financial matters and personal property if you are unable to do so for yourself. This is a particularly valuable component of a solid estate plan because the individual you appoint will be authorized to file tax returns, pay your bills and carry out other important financial matters on your behalf. LIVING WILL: A Living Will documents your medical wishes if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate them yourself. It outlines the types of medical treatment you would or would not want in certain situations. HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself. You may also express your wishes pertaining to organ donation or termination of life support systems in case you become terminally ill or are in a persistent vegetative state. **A Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will together are also known as an Advance Healthcare Directive. Should you already have your estate plan in place, now would be a good time to make sure that your documents are current and reflect your wishes. Ask yourself the following questions: 1. Are the named executors and/or trustees, as well as all successors, suitable, able, and willing to serve? Do the provisions of your will and trusts direct that your property pass to the people and/or charities you wish to benefit in a manner that reflects your wishes and the needs and best interests of those beneficiaries?
2. Have there been any major life changes (such as changes in marital status, births/deaths, changes in residence, major purchases or sales of assets, or acquisitions/sales of property) since you last executed your estate planning documents?
3. Are the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies up to date? If you are a parent to minor children, there are many complex and often difficult decisions to make regarding who would care for your children and the best way to provide for them. The best way to protect your family is to make sure that you have a clear idea of all of your options and have a plan in place. These are not conversations that are easy to have and they are not decisions that are easy to make. However, as we have all seen, disease, illness and unfortunate circumstances can strike any of us at any time. Making time during this pandemic to ensure that your estate plan is ready will provide certainty and comfort during these uncertain times in case something happens to you. If you have any questions or for further information on your Estate Planning options, during the COVID-19 pandemic, do not hesitate to call Keith & Associates Legal, PLLC at 918-574-8500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.