These can be scary times … and thinking about getting sick or not being able to make decisions for yourself just adds to the fear. But a strong estate plan can ease those fears when you’re confident that the burden of making your health and financial decisions will never fall on unprepared family members.
Isn’t a Will Enough?
Though most people think a will is an estate plan, you may be surprised to learn that a will does not appoint nor allow someone else to do your banking or make your medical decisions if you are quarantined at home, admitted to the hospital, or become incapacitated. A strong estate plan addresses these issues and more, including the protection and distribution of your assets.
During this pandemic, two of the most important decisions you will need to make are
- Who will take care of my financial affairs if I can’t?
- Who will make medical decisions for me if I can’t?
Neither of these decisions can be made – or enforced – with a will.
When you designate a financial power of attorney, you are giving someone else the authority to carry on your personal financial affairs and protect your property by acting on your behalf. This person will be able to pay your bills, write checks, make deposits, sell or purchase assets and sign tax returns … all things you may not be able to do for yourself if you are seriously ill or quarantined at home.
What happens if you don’t make this legal appointment? Most likely, your family members will have to petition the probate court to appoint a guardian … a time-consuming and expensive process that can be avoided with proper legal planning.
Similarly, you’ll want to give someone health care power of attorney, so they can make medical decisions on your behalf if you can’t do so yourself. Again, if you are over age 18 and have not made this legal designation, your family members could have to go to court to have a guardian appointed for you. Right now this will be more difficult because courts are temporarily closed.
These are important decisions, but they are just the beginning of a strong estate plan to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property. Meeting with a qualified estate planning attorney can ensure you are protected should the unthinkable happen. My office is currently open so you may call me with any questions. You can also call to make an appointment to meet in person or virtually through a Zoom meeting.
Resource: Huffpost, A Guide to Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic, April 8, 2020