Downs Law Firm, P.C.
Downs Law Firm, P.C.
Many people are taking this time at home during the COVID-19 crisis to update their estate plan. Here are six critical estate plan components you should focus on in light of the current pandemic.
“Don’t panic” has been a common refrain from government leaders, public health professionals, and across social media from well-meaning people trying to keep everyone calm during the coronavirus pandemic.
If someone has lost capacity to execute legal documents and has no power of attorney in place or has a power of attorney that is no longer usable (for example, if the named agents are deceased), a guardianship proceeding may be the only recourse.
As it turns out, a living will and a durable power of attorney for healthcare are two things that single people might especially want to give some thought to.
Make plans for handling an issue, before it becomes an issue. A plan not written down is really just a wish. I wish my son could handle my affairs. I wish my friend could speak for me in the hospital if need. I wish my special needs child would be eligible for needed government aid. Without committing something property to writing, these become more of what paves the road to hell. The legal issues that may surround a health problem, can go from bad to worse if you are not protected by legal documents expressing your wishes, according to the New Jersey Herald in “The importance of putting plans in writing.” The message hits home especially hard, when the friends experience problems that could have been resolved earlier with correct planning. In one example, a woman’s friend began to experience unexpected health problems. Her husband is incapacitated and there are no children to step in and help. The couple’s lack of legal documents has made a difficult situation even worse. Although discussing concepts like end-of-life care can be challenging, all adults should have specific plans in place, even if their estate plan is basic: a last will and testament, a living will and a power of attorney. It is never to early to put these documents into place. If you are a student about to enter college, your parents ability to help or get information may disappear legally at age 18. That newly minted adult should at least have a designated power of attorney and a medical directive, in case they are unable to manage their own affairs or make healthcare decisions. Unfortunately, many people still think estate planning is only for wealthy people who want to pay less taxes. Tax planning can help lighten tax liability for some. However, there are far more important reasons to do estate planning. The main reason for estate planning is to set down expectations and wishes, while you are alive and after you pass. An estate planning attorney will help review the benefits of having a power of attorney and a healthcare directive. They can help, if the situation occurs where your loved ones have to make decisions for you. The amount of time, expense and frustration of going through a guardianship process can be avoided, if these items are in place. An estate planning attorney can also help you with completing beneficiary forms for non-probate assets, preparing a funeral plan, planning a personal property memorandum and discussing elder care and planning for incapacity. Making decisions in advance regarding who will care for minor children, if young parents cannot and who will be the person’s executor and handle all the details of their estate, are all necessary. Many couples choose joint ownership and consider that their estate planning. However, that’s not enough. What happens when the last “surviving” joint owner passes? There are many other issues that need to be addressed. An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan
An advanced directive can give you as well as your loved ones peace of mind. Do you want your preferences known, even if you are lack the capacity to communicate them? Then you need to create an advanced directive, according to the Valley News in “Advance Directives Provide Clear Guidance for Care.” The two components that make up an advance directive are a durable power of attorney and a treatment preferences section. The durable power of attorney for health care allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions, if you lack the capacity to make those decisions for yourself. The treatment preference, which is sometimes referred to as a living will, lets you specify what kind of treatment you would want in a difficult circumstance. Treatment and care preferences usually focus on what you would want at the end of life or if you were in a permanently unconscious state. There are other preferences that can be expressed, including pain control, blood transfusions, mental health care and spiritual care. Another preference: who should—and should not—be involved in discussions about treatment. Most people want to express their wishes to avoid aggressive measures being taken to extend their lives, when the end result will be suffering and a delay of their passing. Others chose to avoid the financial burdens that may or may not result in any kind of change in their health or the quality of their life. Some have these documents prepared to make it clear that they want to spend their final months, weeks or days at home with loved ones with care only to relieve pain or care, so they can be conscious and able to speak with those around them. Advance directives are a blessing to loved ones, since they do not have to make hard choices in a crisis situation. They know what their aging parent or spouses wishes. It’s important to choose the person you want to be responsible for your care well in advance. Make sure it’s someone you trust, who knows you well and will be able to make hard decisions in a highly emotional time. They’ll also have to be able to communicate with your doctors and family members. It’s also important that you deliver the documents to your decision makers in a way they can be easily retrieved. We will scan and email the documents to our clients and suggest they forward the email to their decision makers. With smart phones today, they can be at a persons fingertips when needed. Also, telling young adult children that they are not the decision makers, or at least not yet, is also necessary. If an 18 year old is not aware that an aunt or uncle is to make these decisions, they may be thrust into the role simply because they don’t know better. An estate planning attorney can advise you in creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and can include an advanced directive. Reference: Valley News (Sep. 1,