Has 2020 brought any unexpected events your way? Were you prepared?
As a financial planner, I know that an estate plan is very important for me to have, even if I don’t have kids yet. All the professionals around me were echoing its importance, but I was slow to move. I knew it would mean making tough decisions that I did not want to think about.
Most of us were unprepared for COVID-19. I sure was. Have you had family, friends and/or co-workers affected by COVID-19? Do you know anyone who has died due to the virus?
Perhaps you do not, but you may have known someone who has had some type of illness and been placed in the hospital or nursing home during this time. During this pandemic, changes are being made to protect all of us. Those hospitalized or in nursing homes have lost some of their freedom. They are no longer able to come and go freely, have visitors or have food delivered, and they are limited to having outside materials delivered. They are surrounded by the same doctors, nurses and caretakers day after day. Family and friends are not allowed to visit them in person to bring encouragement and comfort.
My family has personally experienced these challenges with an illness and death during this time. This is definitely not easy for the patient or family. It has made me realize that I cannot hold back on making these important decisions because of my selfishness, laziness and procrastination.
Do Not Procrastinate
Having proper estate documents is extremely important and can have a huge impact on the sick, elderly and their families. Some questions that my family and others have faced include: Who is paying their regular bills? Who has legal authority to handle their financial affairs? Who can legally make their healthcare decisions if they are unable? These questions are often unaddressed until it is too late. And it can be very difficult to act without the proper legal documentation. Just because they have vocalized that they want your help, does not mean the financial institutions, doctors or hospitals can legally allow them.
What is Needed?
There are many different levels of estate planning. I highly recommend consulting with an estate attorney to take further action. We are happy to recommend an attorney that may fit your needs.
Below I have listed the basic items every individual over the age of 18 should have:
- Durable Power of Attorney (Financial): A Durable Power Of Attorney (DPOA) is a legal document that grants someone else authority to act on your behalf for financial matters. This includes paying bills, making financial decisions and having access to funds for one’s benefit. It can be drafted to where the agent can act at any point or when you are deemed unable to make financial decisions. It is often best to have documents that allow your agent to act on your behalf without having to be deemed incapacitated. It can be very tedious to get a doctor’s letter proving incapacitation. But this requires full trust in the person you appoint as the agent. A Durable Power Of Attorney gives the agent great power.
For my family, there was no DPOA in place. The caregiver had no access to accounts to pay bills. The only option was to pay from personal accounts or have them go unpaid, resulting in late payments.
- Health Care Power of Attorney: A Healthcare Power Of Attorney (HPOA) is a legal document that grants someone else the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. This document allows you to make decisions ahead of time, such as tube feeding, life-sustaining treatment and organ donation. This document is very beneficial during COVID-19 when no one can be in the hospital with you. This is even more important if you are not married or would like someone other than your spouse to help make life-sustaining care options.
- Last Will and Testament: We all will leave this earth at some point and need to make sure that we make the distribution of our money and things as easy as possible for our spouse or loved ones. A will is a legal document that states who will handle the distribution of your estate at your death. It also lists out who will receive your property, money and assets. Without this document, the courts will make these decisions for you. The distribution may not be as you wished. It could go to family that you would like to exclude.
This is crucial to make sure your family is protected and your assets are distributed as you wish. This will also save them a very large, mostly unnecessary, headache in dealing with the probate process.
My family is currently dealing with this, unfortunately. There was no will in place. This has been a huge headache for many parties and will affect all of us for the coming years. Never assume that your spouse will inherit your funds. (This is one of the most common estate planning mistakes.) By simply having a will executed, this would have all been avoided.
Act Now for Your Family’s Sake
At minimum, a simple estate plan is crucial to have. You never know what life will throw at you. Be prepared! Protect your family, your assets and the relationships that are in place. Start today by simply scheduling a meeting with an estate attorney. Here at Global View, we are happy to recommend attorneys who will best fit your needs.
Do not place this at the end of your “to do” list. Act now! Set yourself and your loved ones up for the best future possible!