How Does the Pandemic Underscore Estate Planning?

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The pandemic has reminded people of limits to their control.

At the start of 2020, you likely had many plans.

Perhaps you (or a loved one) were going to get married surrounded by friends and family.

Maybe you were going to watch your child walk across the stage at graduation.

Perhaps you had a large family reunion planned.

Whatever your expectations were for 2020, they likely looked quite different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a recent The Press-Enterprise article titled “Legal lessons from a pandemic: What you can plan for” this lesson about the uncertainties in life is challenging but important to remember.

Estate planning is essential in a pandemic.
Make sure your estate plan and incapacity plan are up-to-date during the pandemic.

This fact is especially applicable to estate planning.

It is often easy for those who are in their prime to put off estate planning.

They feel they have little to lose and plenty of time.

The pandemic has revealed the flaws in this line of thinking.

Anyone who is at least age 18 needs an Advance Health Care Directive, a General Durable Power of Attorney, a HIPPA Release Form, and perhaps even a Last Will and Testament.

Some individuals may also require a trust if their goals include probate avoidance or inheritance protection.

You should prepare the documents as soon as possible if you do not yet have them in place.

Should you become ill during the pandemic, you will want to have your incapacity planning in place.

If you were to become hospitalized and unable to make your own medical or financial decisions, you would be in a tough place without the proper documents.

Who do you trust to make these choices for you?

The agent named to make medical decisions does not need to be the same reason who would manage your finances.

You may want to provide two to three options in case your first choice is unable to act on your behalf when needed.

During the pandemic, Advance Health Care Directives have been frequently in the news.

The authority and value extends beyond intubation and ventilation.

Advance Health Care Directives also allow you to share your preferences for pain relief, life-sustaining treatment, and organ donation.

Although not every person requires a trust, a revocable living trust can be beneficial in the event of incapacity or death.

A trustee can continue to manage the assets held by the trust while you are alive but incapacitated.

When you die, the beneficiaries may directly receive their inheritance according to your instructions without having to wait for probate.

The pandemic has caused many to consider how they can best plan for what they cannot control.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is a good start.

Reference: The Press-Enterprise (Oct. 18, 2020) “Legal lessons from a pandemic: What you can plan for”