The current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us that we’re never quite sure what will happen right around the corner. It has shown us that something unexpected can occur that affects our ability to take care of ourselves and, in certain cases, can take away our lives. So, how can we prepare to protect ourselves and our loved ones during this stormy time? We can create or update our estate planning documents so we can depend on them to help us get through whatever comes our way.
People commonly think of doing their estate planning, but put it off thinking it can be done at some time in the future. The truth is that estate planning will only work for you if it’s in place before you need it. If you become unable to take care of yourself due to an illness, who will be responsible for your health care decisions and your financial affairs? Without the proper planning in place, you face the possibility that state law will make those decisions for you, and that your estate will go through the time and expense of probate with the chance that your assets won’t go to the people who mean the most to you.
Why Your Estate Plan Needs to Be Up-to-Date
By reviewing and updating your existing estate plan, or creating a new one, you’ll control how you and your assets are taken care of.
Here are the most important documents you should have up-to-date in your estate plan:
Will: A will directs who will receive your property upon your death, and it appoints a legal representative (“executor”) to carry out your wishes. Reviewing and updating your will is a critical step in every stage of life especially when big life events happen like a divorce, a new baby, death in the family, or a remarriage. Name guardians for your children so you have a say about who will raise your children if you aren’t there. Without a will or a trust, the courts will decide what happens to your kids and your assets if you pass away.
Revocable Trust: In the event you become incapacitated, this allows for easier management of the assets in your trust and will help your assets avoid probate if you pass away. A trust can also hold assets to be managed for a minor if you have young children or other young beneficiaries. If you have a trust, do you need to update your beneficiaries and how they are to receive the property? Also, make sure you’ve transferred your assets into the trust since that’s the only way the trust can work properly for you.
Durable Power of Attorney: This allows a person you trust to manage your finances as well as business and legal matters in the event you become unable to do so yourself. That means they can take money out of your bank account, pay your bills, and even make court appearances for you until you recover and are able to handle your own affairs.
Health Care Proxy: Choose someone you trust to make medical decisions for you in case you become unable to do so. It allows your health care team and loved ones to know what kind of care you want.
Living Will: A living will works in conjunction with a health care proxy by expressing your wishes as to how your designated agent should proceed in specific circumstances. Do you want life-prolonging treatment if you have a terminal illness? Do you want respirators to help you breathe?
It’s also essential to review your beneficiary designations for assets, such as bank accounts, IRAs, life insurance, and annuities since those go directly to your beneficiaries upon your passing (unless you’ve made your revocable living trust the beneficiary). Are the beneficiaries still the ones you want to leave money to?
Contact The Heritage Law Center, LLC Today
Sometimes life can take you by surprise in an unfortunate way. We’re here to help you be prepared for that possibility by working with you to get your estate plan up-to-date, so you and your family will be protected. Doing your estate planning with us will be quicker and easier than you think, and you’ll then be able to enjoy peace of mind. Call us today at 617.485.0452 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation.