With so many people asking how to make sure they are legally protected during the COVID-19 crisis, we've put together some information to guide you during this unprecedented time.
This level of health crisis warrants a close look at whether you and your family are protected legally. Existing estate planning documents should be reviewed to make sure they are current with the law and they reflect your current wishes. Documents that are more than five years old or were prepared in a state where you no longer reside should be reviewed to see if updates are necessary. Life changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child or the aging of people named to take over in the event of death or incapacity may trigger the need for an update.
Business owners should have a succession plan in place that establishes who will manage the business if the owner can no longer handle the day-to-day operations and who will take ownership upon your death.
Both business owners and individuals need to identify the key individuals to step in to assist if upon incapacitated or death. Consider the age, ability, willingness and location of your choices when deciding who will serve in these important roles.
As a part of this process, make a list of your assets and review all beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, life insurance policies and pay on death accounts.
Once you review your current plan, you should have identified areas that need updating. Now take the necessary steps to update any outdated provisions in your documents or if you don't have any documents in place, now is the time to do so. There are 4 essential estate planning documents that every person needs:
Last Will & Testament – Your will is the legal document that states how assets pass upon death. It also states who will serve as executor of your estate, and if you have young children, nominates guardians for your minor children. Having a will is especially important for parents with minor children because it is in your will where you name guardians for your children. Guardians are the people who will care for your children upon your incapacity or death. If you do not have a will and you are an unmarried adult or in a serious relationship but are not married state law will dictate how your assets pass upon your death, which may not be exactly what you want.
Durable Power of Attorney - With the number of cases of hospitalizations and quarantines rising, you should have a person legally appointed to manage your financial matters (pay your bills, file your taxes, apply for benefits, and more) in the event you cannot do it yourself. This is accomplished with a document called a Durable Power of Attorney. Many people believe that any family member can step in if they become incapacitated, and this is simply not true. Only a person you have effectively authorized to manage your financial matters can act on your behalf without a court order. Moreover, unless you name the person you want to manage your financial matters, the court may name someone you would have never selected yourself. Every adult, including college-aged children, need to have a financial power of attorney during this crisis.
Health Care Power of Attorney & Living Will - If you become sick and cannot make your own health care decisions, you must have someone you trust to make those decisions for you. This is done in a Health Care Power of Attorney. In addition, should your condition become life-threatening, you will want to set forth your end of life decisions in a valid living will.
If you do not have these documents in place or if your current documents are outdated, have an estate planning attorney review your situation and update your estate plan.
Once your updated plan is in place, don’t keep it a secret. Let your loved ones know that you have a plan and who is involved. Take some time to write a note to your loved ones listing the names of your banks and other financial information as well as the names of your accountant, financial planner and estate planning attorney. You do not have to give this note to anyone now but keep it with your estate plan. Give copies of your powers of attorney to the person or people you named to handle matters if you become incapacitated.
By definition, legal planning should be completed before the need exists. Do not wait until the crisis hits too close to home to take action. During this crisis, we are doing everything to ensure the legal needs of the Lake Norman community are addressed. We will continue to provide information regarding important legal issues as they arise.
We have also taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our staff, clients and the community. The attorneys at Robbins & Bentz have significant experience with all facets of estate planning. We are offering free telephone and videoconferencing consultations for estate and business planning, and in order to help with the economic strains facing us all, we are offering 20% discount on our estate planning documents through April 30, 2020. Schedule your free (socially distant) consultation today by calling (704) 892-4098.
Information contained in this electronic communication is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney if you have legal questions regarding estate or business planning.
Schedule your appointment today by calling 704-892-4098 or send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you!
This material was authored and published by Robbins & Bentz, PLLC.
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