Written by Robert T. Nickerson
Things can happen during the COVID-19 outbreak. But things can also happen anytime. Were in a time of uncertainty where people aren't sure whats going to happen in the next months or years. I can promise you that we'll return to a state of normality sooner then you think. Though even with this or not, people still need to plan for the best and worst case scenario.
Thinking about your own health and eventual death can be hard and even upsetting. This is probably why a lot of people don't think about their estate plan until its too late. I'm gonna give you some good news and inform you that it's never too late to change that as long as your alive. It can take the COVID-19 to inspire you to make a plan, but things like marriage, caring for elderly parents, being parents to children or any other medical event can also encourage you to take action. Every person should have four of the following documents to ensure a mind at ease for anything.
1. A Will or Revocable Trust
During any critical crisis, it's important to know whose going to receive your assets. I'll tell you now that going through Probate is no picnic. It's a red tape process that makes asset acquiring very complicated and more so if someone in your family tries to challenge that. A lot of people with modest or small estates have a will. This mainly tells your loved ones who is going to receive some or all assets. Its something that also requires returning to every now and then to ensure the family situation has not changed and is up to date.
2. Beneficiary Designations on Financial Accounts
You need to know that a simple will may not cover all of your assets. What beneficiary designations do, especially for IRAs, 401(K) accounts or life insurance policies, is name a person who will manage those accounts in the event of something happening to the original holder of the account. More often then not, many people wait too late to have a beneficiary set in place, forcing a lot of complication, hence it'll be back to court for the family. Your financial institution usually has the forms to set up a beneficiary. Like a will, this also needs to be looked at every few years to confirm everything in your life is the same. What's worse then not knowing your money wont go to the people you want after you die?
3. Healthcare Durable Power of Attorney
During an outbreak, I know your concerned about getting care should something happen. Of course I'd recommend getting health insurance or being on one of many federal or state programs should you qualify for that. I can advise on that as well, but I specifically want to talk about a durable power of attorney. What this does is designate someone to make your medical decisions in the event you can't. Your healthcare provider should have the right documents to set up someone in place. This will make the process a lot smoother as long as you know already who will respect your wishes.
4. Financial Durable Power of Attorney
Like a Healthcare durable power of attorney, you can set up similar for your financial accounts. The difference between this and a beneficiary designation is that while that set up someone to take over accounts when you die, a financial durable power of attorney names one if your medically unable to make decisions. It also allows them to make financial decisions such as transferring accounts and making purchases. The rules in place can cater to whatever you want. You can set it up to only pay bills or go as far to make investments. The financial durable power of attorney needs to sign for someone who you can really trust.
Getting ready for the worst doesn't have to upsetting or even hard. Our law office can help set you up with the proxies, accounts and power of attorneys depending on your situation or estate. It's not just a privilege for the wealthy and anyone can get something set up. I can help guide you through it all. Contact our office for more information on what you can do and what we can do to make it easier.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!