Written by Robert T. Nickerson
This is certainly a trying time. The COVID-19 has not only set off a lot of health, financial, economic, and child issues, but it has also set in social distasting as the new normal. The sudden change in life is going to understandably cause a lot of confusion, fear and even pain. This has also forced a lot of families to become closer as we're more encouraged to stay home. You'd think it would get boring after a while, but since we live in an era of instant entertainment, along with the consistent Netflix and Disney Plus marathons, this should also open you up to a lot of free information… including what you can do to protect your family for the future.
Since you'll be home more often, now's a good time to ask yourself "When was the last time I cleaned my closet?" This means a lot of things. Your closet, attic, garage, or storage is going to be filled with a lot of stuff from your past, most of it being your families. With each spaced filled, this should make you grateful that you have this kind of space.
Along with literally "cleaning your closet", I also mean to do so with your legal documents. To be fair, a lot of families want to think about their loved ones but because of life, planning for that may not be that high on the priority list. The COVID-19 changes everything, including this. I want to ask you when was the last time you looked over your estate planning documents…or even if you've drawn up any at all.
It's okay to admit if you haven't done so yet. It's said that tragedy tends to be the biggest reminder of these kinds of things. I receive emails and calls inquiries for information during these times. The office got a lot of contact when Kobe Bryant was killed in the unfortunate accident. The new outbreak will make a lot of people think about their current situation not just for themselves, but for their elderly parents who are at most risk.
At minimum, everyone should have a last will and testament, a power of attorney and a health care proxy. This is to ensure who will make medical decisions, legal decisions if the person in question cannot, and most importantly, how their estate will be divided. Without a will and testament, the state laws will determine how one's assets will be split. If you have children, then a judge would make the decision of who they'd live with.
Having an estate plan in place can prevent the state and government from making those choices. Having a power of attorney will set someone in place to make legal decisions should you be too ill to do so. This would include filling taxes, banking, buying and selling real estate, and even applying for government benefits. A health care proxy will let someone of your choice make medical decisions for you, including end of life if needed.
As an estate planning attorney, I've a lot of experience in dealing with questions about the future, even within circumstances like COVID-19. My office is open with a limited staff and surfaces that are consistently cleaned. We even have hand sanitizer for your safety. If your worried, we can also arrange remote meetings through email, phone, Skype or however you want to proceed. We can help "clean your closet" and keep it clean well after this outbreak ends.
Jeffrey C. Nickerson - Estate Planning Attorney - My Passion is Special Needs Planning!