Whether you are young or old, COVID-19 has us all thinking about our mortality and health more these days. This pandemic took us all by surprise, did you have your affairs in order before? According to one study, approximately 1/3 of all Americans did not have an up-to-date estate plan as of 2017. We expect and hope that number will rise in 2020. Now that we are all thinking about our future health, it’s time to start acting. But what to do first? Let’s review a few steps to consider while estate planning in a covid world.
Steps to Estate Planning During Uncertain Times
The first thing you should do is get organized. Determine what all of your assets are, their value, and organize the paperwork. Do you already have an old estate plan in place? Do you have assets and properties to think about? Collect all the necessary paperwork in one place for easy access. Once you’ve done an audit of your assets and accounts, schedule a virtual appointment with an estate lawyer to get your estate plan updated.
Getting organized isn’t just about you. It’s about your family and making sure they have the tools needed to take care of you should anything bad happen. To avoid these potential problems, especially during a pandemic, consider putting together a “go package” of essential estate plan items and have the package readily available. After all, without the documents, the hospital and doctors won’t know your wishes or who should make decisions on your behalf. The “go package” should include the following:
- Medical documents
- Estate planning documents
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Copies of your insurance card / Medicare card
- Medical history
- Prescriptions, medications, and daily supplements
- Full legal name, social security number, and emergency contacts
Determine Beneficiary Designations
Crisis or not, it is always a good idea to designate beneficiaries to your financial accounts. As difficult as this might be to say, the truth is that you never know when death will come knocking. Look at your bank accounts, your investment accounts, and your retirement accounts. Beneficiary designations must be kept updated on every asset in order for them to work. Remember that beneficiary designations can avoid probate, but they can only be used upon death – they will not work for cases of incapacity.
Consider a Health Care Proxy
In cases of incapacity, consider putting a health care proxy in place. This document allows you to appoint someone you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are incapable of making those decisions. If you are in isolation with others, you may be able to fill out a health care proxy. The document varies state by state, and it often requires two witnesses. The proxy allows you to appoint an agent who will make your medical decisions, and the form does not have to be completed by a lawyer or notary.
Don’t forget HIPAA
At a time when visitors are not allowed in hospitals or nursing homes, HIPAA will allow your designated loved one to get updates on your health condition. It just takes a simple health care proxy and/or a HIPAA form. The forms vary state-by-state so it’s important to get the right form for your state.
Power of Attorney
In the words of Fern Finkel, a Brooklyn elder care lawyer, “Do whatever you can right now to set up a designee for each of the banks you use.” You can complete a basic POA with your financial institutions and designate whoever you choose to make the financial decisions should you become incapacitated. Some banks have their own procedures and we recommend working with an estate planning attorney to get your POAs done right.
Talk to Loved Ones Before it’s too Late
If you haven’t already, now is the time to have the conversation you’ve been avoiding. Talk to your family and loved ones about healthcare and financial decisions that need to be made should you pass away or become incapacitated. Talking about death and dying is difficult, but the earlier you have the conversation the easier it will be. Furthermore, with all this fear around COVID, now might actually be an easier time to discuss the matter.
With all this extra time in self-isolation, now is the perfect time to get your affairs in order if you haven’t already started the process. With the pandemic looming over our heads long-term, you want to act now and not wait for the worst to happen. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at Michaelson & Associates, we always put the safety of our clients first. We can keep meetings virtual and make the signing process as comfortable as possible with limited physical interaction, masks, and gloves. We know that getting our affairs in order is more important than ever, so we will be here to provide the best service during the pandemic and after. Call us today at 702-731-2333 for your free first-time consultation.