Estate Planning During a Pandemic
Everyone should have an estate plan based on their circumstances. Your estate plan can take the form of a simple Will or can get progressively more advanced through the use of a living trust. As we all age, the need for an estate plan becomes more relevant and COVID-19 has made this need even more acute. As we are all stuck at home and unable to go out to work or play, now is the perfect time to update or create an estate plan. In this article I will go over some of the most important documents that are created for estate plans here at Griswold, Lasalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin.
Primary Transfer Document – Will or Trust
The central document of your estate plan is either a Will or a living trust. Whether you need a Will or a living trust depends on how extensive your assets are and is something you will discuss with your estate planning attorney as your plan takes shape. Regardless of what you end up with, your Will or living trust is the primary transfer document for the majority of your assets after your passing. In short, it provides the orders for who gets what from your estate. It also names who is in charge of distributing your assets. Without these instructions, your estate will be what is called intestate, and will be transferred according to law, which may not be what you would have wanted. COVID-19 has made intestate estates even more likely as people who may have otherwise lived long and healthy lives are getting sick and passing away. The isolation imposed by a COVID-19 diagnosis also makes it all but impossible to create and execute an estate plan after your diagnosis.
Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management
A power of attorney for financial management allows your designated agent to act as if they were you for purposes of property and financial transactions. Some of the more common powers an agent may need in emergency situations include dealing with bank accounts, transferring funds, paying bills, filing taxes, funding a trust, updating beneficiary designations, and addressing insurance claims. This document can be especially helpful if you become incapacitated. For example, dementia or Alzheimer’s can make it so you are unable to continue to manage your property and financial interests. Your agent under your power of attorney would continue to manage your property and financial assets once you become incapacity. The use of a power of attorney in this scenario allows for continued financial stability.
Advance Health Care Directive
Similar to the power of attorney, an advance health care directive allows you to designate an agent to make health care decisions for you should you be unable to. California does not automatically provide similar authority to your spouse if you are married. This power must be specifically granted through an advance health care directive. Without a beneficiary designation under an advance health care directive, your doctor makes his or her own choices regarding your treatment if you are unable to provide direction. If you are undergoing treatment for COVID-19, or any medical procedure, having an agent under an advance health care directive ensures your health care needs and wishes will be followed.
Phone or Video Teleconferencing
Most of your estate planning can be done through phone or video teleconferencing with your attorney. The only time you will need to physically meet with someone is for the execution of the documents as they require witnesses and/or a notary public. Griswold, Lasalle, Cobb, Dowd & Gin ensures proper social distancing in all of our client meetings.