Coronavirus and Estate Planning

Estate Planning
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, it may feel like there are few aspects of your life that you can control, beyond hand washing and social distancing. However, estate planning – which is more vital now than ever – can help you reclaim some control during these uncertain times.

Estate planning with 5 Points Probate involves the creation of three essential documents:

  • Power of attorney
  • Advanced directive for healthcare
  • Will

These documents are crucial if you should fall ill, and they can help ease the burden on your family during the worst-case scenario. This guide will explain why you need estate planning in light of the coronavirus, the benefits of setting up these documents, and how an attorney can help.

 

Estate Planning and COVID-19: What You Need to Know

Estate planning begins with a power of attorney and an advanced directive for healthcare. Together, these documents will serve a crucial role in the event you fall seriously ill. In the worst-case scenarios, a will can outline how your assets are to be distributed after you pass.

Let’s take a look at these documents in more detail:

 

What Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney gives family and/or trusted acquaintances the legal right to make key financial decisions on your behalf. For example, let’s say you’re the head of your household, and your health has taken a turn for the worse. If you’re hospitalized or even put on a ventilator, your physical ability to access your finances and, perhaps, your mental capacity during this time may be severely affected. Meanwhile, the mortgage is still due, your business needs to be managed, and bills must be paid.

While you’re temporarily unavailable and/or incapacitated, who will take care of your business, pay your bills, or handle other financial obligations? With a power of attorney, you can choose a responsible person you trust to handle these affairs on your behalf.

A power of attorney can grant your family member or trusted friend access to your bank accounts to pay bills, manage the day-to-day affairs of your business, and act on your behalf in nearly any fiduciary capacity. This grant of authority is why it’s important to choose someone who you fully trust to make the best decisions on your behalf.

When choosing someone to serve as your power of attorney, they should be:

  • Someone with good attention to detail and capable of comprehending legal documents and contracts.
  • A person who is financially responsible and has a good understanding of business and finances.
  • Someone who is cooperative and willing to listen to the advice of attorneys or accountants, if needed.

 

What Is an Advanced Directive for Healthcare? 

An advanced directive for healthcare is essentially a guide for first responders, healthcare workers and your loved ones regarding the kind of care you want to receive if you cannot make these decisions yourself. It is sometimes referred to as a “Living Will.”

An advanced directive for healthcare can also prevent your loved ones from having to make difficult decisions. For example, if you state that you do not want to receive life sustaining treatment, this personal choice can prevent situations that would otherwise cause undue stress for your family.

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this document is more important than ever, especially for non-married couples. For instance, let’s say you have told your specific preferences for medical care to your significant other. If you are not legally married, your significant other will not be able to make medical decisions on your behalf. But with an advanced directive for healthcare, you can set out your wishes for medical care to act as a guide for healthcare workers, and specifically appoint your partner as healthcare proxy so that they legally have a say.

An advance healthcare directive may cover the following:

  • Whether you’d like to be put on life-support treatment, if needed. And if so, what kind and to what extent.
  • Your preference for certain medical treatments, such as ventilators and other devices to aid breathing, use of feeding tubes, dialysis, blood transfusions, surgery, antibiotics, and more.
  • Decisions regarding whether you will receive palliative care.
  • Whether you want a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.
  • If you want any resuscitation efforts to be made in the event you stop breathing or your heart stops.
  • Whether you’d like to be an organ donor.

In addition to outlining your wishes for medical care, an advanced directive for healthcare also allows you to name a healthcare proxy to speak for you, if you are unable to communicate your preferences.

 

What Is a Will? Why Do I Need One?

A power of attorney and an advance healthcare directive can help you get the medical care you want, and ensure your financial affairs are in order if you’re incapacitated.

But what if the unthinkable occurs? While it’s difficult to think about, many people find that creating a will actually helps them feel more in control during these difficult times. In the event you pass, a will fully outlines how your assets are to be distributed.

You can also appoint an executor of your will. An executor is the person who oversees the distribution of your assets and any related matters in probate court.

A will can decide:

  • Who will be appointed as a guardian to care for your minor children or adult children with special needs. Without a will, the court will decide who will act as guardian.
  • The allocation of assets in trusts for minor children, adult children, other loved ones, or even cherished pets.
  • How your cash will be distributed, which includes liquid cash, money market accounts, checking accounts, savings accounts, and more.
  • How intangible property will be distributed, such as intellectual property, royalties, stocks, bonds, and business ownership.
  • The distribution of real estate and valuable objects, such as artwork and jewelry.

An attorney will help facilitate the process of creating your will, and you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that a plan is in place.

 

Do You Need an Attorney to Help with Estate Planning During COVID-19?

It’s not mandatory to hire an attorney for estate planning. However, without legal experience, there are many parts of the estate planning process that you might miss. Proper estate planning with a seasoned local attorney can save your family a significant amount of money and time.

When you choose 5 Points Probate to handle your estate planning, you can expect:

  • Thorough Legal Services: It’s important to understand that proper estate planning encompasses more than just filling out forms. You may need help with titling vehicles and other assets, and naming beneficiaries. Our attorneys are Alabama natives licensed to practice law in or great state.  They will ensure all loose ends are tied up, so you and your family don’t have to worry.
  • Expertise in Probate Law and Estate Planning: Our law firm has a dedicated Birmingham based legal team that handles estate planning and Alabama probate law. We have in-depth knowledge in these areas, and can navigate complicated probate matters, contested wills, and more. Whether you need help with your initial estate planning or your circumstances have changed since your last estate plan was made, we can help during every step of the process.
  • Superior Customer Service: From our support staff to our legal team, you can expect caring, local service customized to your needs. We will always take the time to listen to your concerns, and we will fully explain the estate planning process so you can make the best decisions for your future.
  • A Worry-Free Experience: We understand that estate planning can be a stressful process, and we value your time. This is why we’ve updated the process using technology to eliminate your worry and stress. We can use video conferencing and online collaboration if you prefer, so you can sign documents from the comfort of your own home.

 

Get Started With Estate Planning Today

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us feeling uncertain about the future. During these uncertain times, estate planning is one of the best ways to reclaim control and protect you and your family.

Estate planning can let healthcare workers know what kind of care you want in the event you are incapacitated. It can also ensure your financial affairs are properly managed, and that your assets are allocated according to your wishes, if needed.

Get started by scheduling a confidential consultation with one of our local attorneys at 5 Points Probate. Contact us today at (205) 235-9658.

We look forward to meeting you in our offices conveniently located in 5 Points South in Birmingham or on the internet.  Stay safe and be well!

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