As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is a message that we have all been getting as the COVID-19 virus spreads. Don’t panic, cover your cough, stay home when sick, and above all else, wash your hands! Well, the same goes for estate planning.
Having an up to date estate plan that accurately reflects your wishes in place can make any number of situations much better. For example, if a loved one did contract COVID-19 and was among the minority for whom it led to hospitalization and perhaps incapacitation, would that person have a clear, legally binding document in place allowing another person to make that person’s medical decisions (a health care proxy)? And would that person have a document that allowed the right people access to the necessary medical information (a HIPAA Authorization)? Have you and your family had the conversations so that everyone understands what each of you wants and does not want in your health care?
Such a situation would not only impact health care decisions, but also legal, financial and business ones. In these situations, would someone be able to step in and sign income tax returns on your behalf with a durable power of attorney? Are your assets owned directly by you, and, if so, is there a durable power of attorney in place to allow another person to pay your bills if you are unable to? If there is not, your family may need to go to the probate court to seek a Conservatorship over your assets, and this can be a lengthy, expensive and intrusive process. If you have a revocable trust, this is a good time to assess whether or not your assets are owned the way that your estate planning attorney recommended.
In all of these cases, you should make sure that the young adults in your family have the appropriate plan in place as well.
If you have questions about estate planning, probate, trusts, and tax matters, please contact one of Conn Kavanaugh’s experienced estate planning lawyers.
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