The continuing threat of the COVID – 19 virus has affected all of us. In addition to the risk of exposure to the illness, we are all experiencing the impact of the efforts that are now underway to minimize its spread. During these uncertain times, we thought it would be helpful to provide some reminders about the important documents that will protect you now.

From an estate planning perspective, ensuring that one’s plan is up to date, conforms with one’s wishes and with the current state of the law is imperative. To most of us, this means having a last will and testament or a trust. While those are important components of an estate plan, the advance directives – the power of attorney, health care proxy and living will, are especially important now.

During times like these we find ourselves asking the following questions: “If I or my loved one is stricken with this illness, or is even exposed and must be quarantined, who is empowered, legally authorized, to take care of my financial transactions? Who can pay the bills, do the banking, manage the financial accounts, notify my health insurer and ensure that claims are being submitted and processed? If I or someone I know needs care at home or in a nursing facility and wishes to apply for Medicaid benefits, has anyone been empowered to assist with the application?” A power of attorney is the document that designates that person and empowers them to act. It should also designate a successor agent in the event the primary agent is unable to perform. To be effective, the power of attorney must be properly executed and witnessed. It must also be executed by the agent.
“Who is empowered to make health care decisions for me if I am incapable of expressing them to my medical providers?” This is the job of a health care proxy which should carefully identify my agent and provide current contact information. A living will expresses end of life choices and clarifies one’s instructions for treatment when one is in an irreversible medical or physical condition with no reasonable expectation of recovery.
“Who will handle my affairs and distribute my assets to my loved ones if I should pass away?” My will or trust will designate to whom my assets should be given. Just as important, it should designate how the assets should be received. “Is my beneficiary capable of managing their inheritance themselves or is he or she too young, immature, incapable or incapacitated to be given that responsibility? Is the beneficiary having marital or financial issues that might jeopardize the inheritance or cause it to be lost to creditors?” Protecting an inheritance in a trust rather than giving it outright to the beneficiary could make all the difference.
Everyone can benefit from asking themselves these questions. If we can satisfactorily answer the questions and know that we have a sufficient plan in place, it gives us peace of mind. There is no downside to reviewing an existing estate plan or to creating one if none exists. Documents not needed today will continue to afford protection in the future.
It is very important right now to listen to experts and practice social distancing. We are working with clients to meet their needs and continue our operations while also following health guidelines. We encourage everyone to be safe and not sorry, let’s protect each other and ourselves. We will remain available as a resource for you and your families. Please feel free to reach out to our office.