COVID-19: What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Place?
An emergency like COVID-19 can make us think about things we typically cast aside for “another day.” Like estate planning. Fortunately, many estate planning attorneys are providing online services and advice. What are the documents that a typical American should have in place to ensure their loved ones are supported?
Basic Estate Planning Documents
Every adult — no matter their age or health — should have an updated will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive. And all parents should have guardianship considerations in place. Here’s what each of those documents do:
A last will and testament lets you decide who gets your property upon your death. If you were to pass away without a will, your state’s laws would determine what happened to your property, which can lead to expensive litigation. This doesn’t just include the money you have in the bank, but also your family heirlooms and other special possessions. That’s why it is important for everyone, no matter their financial situation, to have a will. It is possible to create a will during social distancing.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney allows someone else to manage your finances when you cannot. If you are in the hospital and are unable to file your taxes or pay your bills, for example, a financial power of attorney would allow your agent to do those things for you.
Advanced Healthcare Directive
Depending on your state laws, an advanced healthcare directive might be called a medical power of attorney or a living will. This document allows you to say what kind of medical treatment you want, and who should make medical decisions for you, if you become very sick and unable to make those decisions yourself. For example, if you are put on life support, an advanced healthcare directive might give instructions about how long that life support should continue. Or, it might tell the doctor that your spouse (or another person) will be the one to make that decision on your behalf.
If you and your spouse were to pass away, do you have someone ready to take care of your children? A legally-binding guardianship document allows you to make that decision in writing so that the court doesn’t have to intervene and make this important decision for you.
Advanced Estate Planning Documents
With the volatile economic situation, you may want to consider wealth and tax planning. There are numerous trusts and options for transferring money that could be used depending on your unique situation. We recommend scheduling a phone or video consultation with an estate planning lawyer experienced in taxation and wealth planning to learn what is right for you.