The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has many of us on edge. We are forced to face our fears in many ways. Whether we are scared of falling ill, of losing someone close, of losing a job, or having to spend time alone in isolation, we are all scared of something. And it’s perfectly normal – humans are naturally anxious and we are fearful about the unknown. Many of us try to get rid of anxiety by getting our affairs in order.
Although COVID-19 is not as dangerous as we previously thought, as most people have mild symptoms, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared if you may need to be hospitalized. It may be scary, but you must prepare for a period where you can’t make decisions for yourself.
An estate plan is the perfect tool to ease your fears and make you feel more comfortable during the coronavirus pandemic. After all, an estate plan drafted by professional estate and will lawyers will give you peace of mind and will help your relatives if something bad happens.
The truth is that everyone should have an estate plan, even if there is no looming pandemic. If you don’t have an estate plan, this is probably the best opportunity to get one. So, how can you make sure you work with the best estate planning firms in your area? What should you know about estate planning during the pandemic? Let’s take a closer look:
The documents you will need
Any person who is over 18 requires some form of estate planning. However, estate planning is not just about wills and trusts. These are obviously not as important if you’re single, have no kids, and limited wealth. Estate planning is more than just this – it also includes a revocable living trust, financial powers of attorney as well as health care powers of attorney, which can be very useful during this difficult period.
Both the financial powers of attorney and the health care powers of attorney are the most important documents for clients during this period. You must have a trusted person who can take care of your financial obligations and make critical medical decisions if you are quarantined or hospitalized. This is especially true if you become incapacitated or need special longterm care. Every strong estate plan should include these documents, so make sure your estate and will lawyers know exactly what you need.
Let’s take a closer look at the documents you need and what they mean:
The financial power of attorney
This document may sound quite formal, but its role is quite simple and straightforward. The financial power of attorney is a legal document that lets your lawyer handle your financial affairs on your behalf. The lawyer will be able to protect your assets, handle your payments, debt, and other financial interests or obligations while you are incapacitated. If you sign a financial power of attorney, the agent (in this case, your lawyer) can pay bills, write checks, sell or purchase assets, make deposits, or sign tax returns.
Depending on the jurisdiction, the agent can be any competent adult or your lawyer. However, you should choose a responsible, competent, and trustworthy person as your financial agent. Also, choose a backup agent, if the main one is unavailable. If you don’t have a valid FPOA, there will be no person able to act on your behalf and your family will have to go through the delicate probate process in order to appoint a guardian to handle your financial needs. This process can be very time-consuming and quite expensive. Avoid it by choosing the best estate planning firms in your area.
The health care power of attorney
Similar to the financial power of attorney, the health care power of attorney is a legal document that gives an agent (a person you choose) the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf, if you are incapacitated or incompetent. If you don’t have a valid HPOA, your family will have to go through the probate process in order to appoint a guardian that has these powers.
The HIPAA waiver
The Health Insurance Portability And Accountability Act (abbreviated as HIPAA) is a law that provides security provisions and data privacy for patients. Even if you have a valid HPOA, the agent may not be able to access all your medical information in order to make the right decision for you. To avoid this from happening, you will need to have the HIPAA waiver as a backup document. It allows your agents to have full access to your medical information in order to speak freely with your health care providers. This document is very important in case of a medical emergency, so make sure you talk to your estate and will lawyers about it.
The living will
Also known as the advanced health care directive, this legal document lets you specify what end-of-life treatment you want or if you don’t want it at all. This is important if you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious and you can’t survive without constant supervision and life support. If you don’t have this legal document, the final decision must be made by your HPOA agent, which can be traumatic, particularly if the person is close to you. In many cases, the agents are hesitant about making this decision, bringing more pain and suffering to patients.
The last will and the testament
This is an important document that lets you distribute your assets to your heirs, after your death. The will lets you appoint an executor who will handle the legal proceedings after you die. The will and testament are important because everyone has assets that need to be transferred, so it’s applicable to virtually every person. What’s more, they are your assets, and you should have the final say about what happens to them. You will be able to specify precisely how the assets are distributed and in what circumstances. Make sure to contact the best estate planning firms in your area in order to get the best legal support.