During these trying and frightening times, we are all aware of our own mortality as we see the infection and death rates of the coronavirus pandemic.
This is especially true if you are concerned about your heirs and dependents at this time. The last thing you want is for your estate to be tied up in probate with no clear path for distributing your assets.
There are many advantages of having a comprehensive estate plan, such as avoiding probate, tax savings, planning for incapacity and providing for minor children вЂ• but perhaps most importantly, is peace of mind.
You can call us to go through what you will need to put your estate plan together, and we can provide you with model plans that you can use as the structure for yours.
Fortunately, most estate planning work can be done at home. You may not be able to physically meet with your attorney, but you can still create, update or finalize your estate plan. Most attorneys are working remotely and are available via e-mail, telephone and video conferencing to advise you.
Documents can be drafted and e-mailed to you for review, or delivered to you by mail or a tracked delivery service.
In general, there are four essential estate planning documents everyone should have in order.
A will can ensure a person’s wishes are followed after their death in many regards. A simple document specifying where everything will be directed after death is essential when there are multiple heirs.
The will should also name the executor, who would be in charge of making decisions about the estate and paying bills. You should let the person you name as executor know you appointed them. At the same time, it’s not necessary to tell all heirs they are included, excluded or what they can expect.
Medical power of attorney
This document is sometimes called a health care proxy. It allows any designated adult to make medical decisions for a person if he or she is unable to do so. It is important to choose a person with trusted judgment who has the ability to stay calm during a crisis while still exercising good judgment.
Durable power of attorney
This document appoints another person as an agent to act with authority and make decisions for the creator of the power of attorney if they become disabled or are not capable of making their own decisions for whatever reason.
No person should take this decision lightly or make hasty choices. The role of power of attorney gives a person long-lasting power. The person chosen should be trustworthy and financially responsible. It is always important to name a backup person, as well.
Living wills, also known as advanced health care directives, specify the wishes of the creator for their end-of-life care. This includes topics such as life support, resuscitation and feeding.
It is important to sit down and talk to loved ones about individual wishes when it comes to living wills and medical power of attorney forms.
To ensure that people can finalize their estate plans at this trying time, lawyers are offering to:
- Conduct the initial meeting by teleconference or videoconference,
- E-mail and deliver documents for you to review at home, and
- Make adjustments and finalize the plan by teleconference or videoconference.
State laws govern execution of wills. Some states require two witnesses and a notary, others only one witness. Some states allow for online execution of these documents, while other states don’t.
Witnesses who sign the will should not be party to the estate plan (such as heirs).
Some law firms are still open to provide this service, and some are doing house calls for executing the paperwork (with precautions such as disinfecting ahead of time, social distancing and wearing masks).
But you could also do it in your own home with witnesses present without a lawyer. However, there are rules around who can act as a witness.
Depending on your state, notarization of your documents may or may not be required. Call us to find out if this is necessary for you.