If you’re concerned that you or a loved one could become seriously ill or even worse due to the novel coronavirus, you’re not alone. As medical experts predict a more violent return of the virus in the fall or that new spikes could occur in states as social distancing is gradually relaxed, it’s important to be prepared for every possible scenario. Keep in mind, however, that setting up or reviewing your estate plan is just as important (if not more so) during this continuing pandemic than stocking up on supplies.
If you don’t have a plan, or your plan is over three years old, the time to make sure your wishes are known and your affairs are in order is now—while you are still in good health and able to talk about your goals and desires. Here are some of the top priorities when thinking about your estate plan and your wishes for care in the event that you become sick, disabled, or incapacitated.
Review Your Beneficiaries
If you have a life insurance policy, retirement savings plan, or other financial accounts, check to see who is listed as your beneficiary and update your beneficiary designation document if necessary. You may also want to select a contingent beneficiary if you haven’t already. In most cases, this can be done online which is especially convenient during times like this.
Update Your Will and Trusts
Everyone over the age of 18 should have a basic estate plan that includes a will. If you have children who are young adults, encourage them to have a simple will drawn up. If you have minor children or assets including life insurance, you’ll need a more comprehensive will and, in most cases, a trust. If you have a will or trust that is older, take a look at wishes you expressed in your documents and who you appointed in authority roles (executor, trustee, guardian) to make sure that you are still happy with your choices. Also, make sure that your documents reflect a current snapshot of your asset portfolio.
Add an Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney
If you become ill and confined to a hospital or otherwise incapacitated, an Advance Healthcare Directive will allow a person of your choosing to make decisions related to your healthcare on your behalf. Be sure to discuss your wishes with this person and let them know that you will be giving them this responsibility so that they can be prepared. You’ll also need to include a Durable Power of Attorney in your estate plan which gives someone you’ve selected the authority to manage your financial affairs if you are incapacitated. This can be the same person you’ve chosen in your Advance Healthcare Directive or you can choose another person close to you to take on this role. Both of these documents are essential for anyone over the age of 18 regardless of their financial situation, including young adults who are not married and do not have children. Once your child reaches the age of 18 (or 19 in some states), you no longer have certain rights. These documents can help eliminate any problems or delays if your adult child becomes ill.
Although it’s perfectly normal to experience a sense of panic during a pandemic, being properly prepared for even the worst possibilities will hopefully give you some peace of mind. If you need help reviewing your documents or creating a plan if you don’t have one, please feel free to contact our estate planning law firm to set up a consultation.