Estate Planning and the Pandemic
Given the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and these unprecedented times, proper estate planning is of the utmost importance. At Rossman Saxe, we can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning and ensure that you have the proper plan and documents in place. Whether it be a durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, updating your will or trust, or drafting a new set of estate documents, we stand ready to help.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I CONTRACT COVID-19 AND CANNOT MANAGE MY AFFAIRS?
If there is an emergency and you cannot act on your own behalf, someone must be given legal authority to do so. If this is not done through an estate plan, your family will be forced to petition the local probate court for authority which is inevitably more costly and time-consuming. It is therefore essential that if you are over the age of 18, you have both a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs as well as a Medical Power of Attorney in place.
WHAT IS A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR FINANCIAL AFFAIRS?
A Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Affairs is an essential document in every estate plan. This document allows the person you designate as your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. This allows that individual to manage your financial affairs in the event you are not able to do so.
WHAT IS A MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY?
A Medical Power of Attorney is another essential document to have in place in every estate plan. This document communicates to the doctors and/or hospital staff whom you have designated as your Patient Advocate to act on your behalf to make medical decisions as well as receive medical information. This document is especially essential if you are physically or mentally unable to communicate with doctors regarding your medical treatment.
I DO NOT HAVE A PLAN WHAT SHOULD I BE THINKING
ABOUT PRIOR TO CONTACTING AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY?
If you have not done any planning, you should seriously consider contacting an estate planning attorney to establish a plan. The following are questions that are of important consideration when working with an attorney to establish your estate plan:
- Who should manage your financial affairs if you are sick?
- Who will assist with medical decisions if you are unable to do so?
- Who will manage your estate if you pass away?
- Who will inherit your estate if you have no plan?
- Is privacy important to you?
- Are your heirs mature enough to receive a large inheritance in one lump sum? Or would they benefit from the protection of a more long-term approach?
- Are any of your heirs currently receiving public benefits such as SSI and Medicaid? If so, a special needs trust should be created to ensure they do not lose their benefits
- Is avoiding probate important to you?
- Who will care for your children if you pass away while they are young?
- Who will run your business when you are no longer able to do so?
I HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE, WHAT SHOULD I BE LOOKING FOR?
If you previously set up a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust, does your plan adequately reflect your wishes? These are the things you should review:
- Is your personal representative or successor trustee willing and able to serve?
- Have any of your fiduciaries (Personal Representative, Trustee, Financial Agent, Patient Advocate) passed away? If so, were alternates appointed?
- Are the individuals you appointed to serve as your personal representative or your successor trustee still the best individuals to act on your behalf?
- Have you correctly identified the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and bank accounts?
- Are all your currently named beneficiaries still living? (If a beneficiary passes away prior to your account being distributed, that beneficiary’s share will pass through their probate estate)
- Is the beneficiary financially responsible? Would the receipt of an outright distribution of their inheritance spell disaster? Would delaying distribution to a later age or retaining the beneficiary’s share in a lifetime trust help protect that beneficiary?
- Have you transferred all your assets into your trust correctly or at all?
LET US SERVE YOU
At Rossman Saxe, P.C. we are focused on guiding our clients through this difficult time and are here to answer all of your estate planning questions. We offer phone consultations as well as video conferencing to accommodate signing appointments, especially during this time when social distancing is the norm. It is not too late to implement an estate plan, but it is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your plan not only anticipates what happens if you become sick or when you pass away, but also what happens if you need long-term care or if you own a business and want to ensure you have implemented a comprehensive succession plan.