Preparing Your Estate Plan During COVID-19
COVID-19, has many people anxious about their affairs in order to protect their families. More than 1.4 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19 and more than 88,000 people from all walks of life have died.
Prepare now and ensure that you have an estate plan in place before becoming hospitalized or incapacitated. Work with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney and gain peace of mind knowing that you took action before things got out of hand.
What Documents Do You Need to Create an Estate Plan?
Anyone who is at least 18 years old can begin crafting a solid estate plan. This may include documents other than wills and trusts, which may not be the most urgent for a single individual without kids and with limited assets. If you fall into this group, consider how you will manage your finances and healthcare before planning how to divide your assets.
Some components of an effective estate plan include:
- A will
- A revocable living trust
- A financial power of attorney
- A healthcare powers of attorney, and
- A living will
During this pandemic, the most crucial documents may be medical and financial powers of attorney. You should appoint people you trust to make decisions regarding your healthcare and finances if you get hospitalized or become incapacitated.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney is a legal document granting an agent the authority to carry on your financial affairs when you cannot. With a financial power of attorney, the person you select may:
- Pay your bills
- Write checks
- Sign tax forms
- Make deposits, and
- Sell or purchase assets in your name.
You can choose any competent individual to serve as your agent, but name someone you can rely on to make reasonable decisions that align with your values. You should also name a backup agent in case your first choice is unavailable.
Without a financial power of attorney, no one can act on your behalf. Your family members will need to request that the probate court appoint a guardian to have these powers. The court process can be time-consuming, expensive, and cannot guarantee your guardian will protect your interests.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
With a healthcare power of attorney, you can name an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf legally if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. The agent may be anyone you know and trust who can competently make health decisions.
Think carefully before naming an agent because this person will be making life or death decisions on your behalf. Again, it’s wise to name multiple parties so there is a backup in case the first-named healthcare power of attorney is unavailable.
A living will specifies what end-of-life care you would like to receive and what kind of care you refuse to receive if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Without a living will, the decision to remove life support falls into the hands of your health care agent or family members. A living will makes your wishes known ahead of time.
In Maryland, you may combine your living will with your medical power of attorney to create an advance medical directive.
Last Will and Testament
Your last will and testament states how you wish to distribute your assets at death. A will also enables you to assign an executor, who oversees the distribution.
Without a will, there is no indication of how you wish to pass on your property. Instead, the state and the court will decide the best way to administer your estate, which could be quite different from how you would do it. A will also makes it possible to appoint a guardian to care for any minor children you have. Without a will, the state decides who fills that role.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust provides many benefits. You appoint a trustee to manage your assets during your lifetime and at your death. Typically, you would transfer your assets into the trust and serve as the trustee for the remainder of your lifetime. As the trustee, you have complete control over all the assets in the trust, and you can alter, amend, or revoke the trust at any time.
After your death, the living trust is controlled by the death trustee who will manage your property and distribute it according to the terms of the trust. With a revocable living trust, you can keep your affairs private and avoid involving the court in your family’s affairs when you pass on.
Quality Counsel from an Experienced Washington, DC Estate Planning Lawyer
Clifford Cohen of The Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen has more than 35 years of experience helping people in Washington D.C. and Maryland plan their estates. Our firm provides peace of mind to our clients, and we can do the same for you. Call (202) 895-2799 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.