In the past few weeks, an escalating number of clients have hurried to meet by videoconference and phone with their legal advisers.
Mortality is on everyone’s minds. Spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, clients who I haven't touched their legal documents in years as well as prospective new clients, have been reaching out to update their existing estate planning documents, or write new ones.
COVID-19 has caused scores of people to write Wills and make critical estate planning decisions about who will oversee their medical care and finances if they become ill or incapacitated. Yet, more than 50 percent of people age 55-plus do not have a Will or the other key estate planning documents they might need during the pandemic, according to Caring.com.
Making a Will
With most states imposing stay-at-home orders and strict social distancing mandates, the mechanics of executing these legally binding documents is requiring virtual meetings and more online communication.
Many important documents require an adult (18 or older) to witnesses and/or notarize (a procedure that generally takes place in person and with signatures in front of a notary) to be valid. Which can be difficult with everyone staying home to prevent the spread of the virus.
The virtual estate consultation
Today, estate lawyers are connecting with clients via videoconference services like Zoom or Skype. The basic estate documents clients typically want to review, such as a Will to legally name who should inherit their property; a durable financial power of attorney that assigns another person to make financial decisions for them if they're incapacitated; a health care power of attorney, along with a living Will, to allow a specified individual to make health care decisions for them if they can't do so for themselves; and the HIPAA authorization form to consent for someone else to access medical information from a health care provider.
To learn more about these important documents, click HERE.
The Important Estate Planning Documents!
There are the six essential estate planning documents to have in place during the pandemic. They are:
A legal document that directs the distribution of your assets after death and can appoint guardians for minor children. If you die without a will, your state's laws decide who gets your assets and other property. Many states require two witnesses to watch you sign and date the Will and then sign as witnesses. Usually one of the witnesses can be the lawyer who drafted the Will. Most states do not allow beneficiaries under the Will to be witnesses. Learn more about Wills HERE.
Health Care Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, is a good supplement to a living will (see below). It permits you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated in some way (say, in a coma) but still alive. There is no reason you can't have both a living will and a durable power of attorney, in fact you should have both. Learn more HERE.
A Living Will
A living Will, sometimes called an advance care directive, is a sort of hybrid that outlines the kind of medical care you want if you are terminally ill. For example, if you don't want to be kept alive on life-support systems, such as a respirator or feeding tube, you can make that known. For a living will to be valid, it typically must be witnessed by two adults, and they usually can't be members of your family or your attending physicians.
Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A financial power of attorney is a document that gives someone the authority to handle financial transactions on your behalf. It's designed to let someone else manage all your financial affairs for you if you become incapacitated. Learn more HERE.
The federal Health Insurance Affordability and Accountability Act set privacy rules for patient records; a release document for records is generally executed along with estate planning documents. It allows you to name people to be treated with the same rights you have regarding disclosure of medical records. Typically, this includes your spouse, children, or other close relatives, so that these family members can communicate with doctors and nurses and find out how you're doing if you're hospitalized.
Mental Health Directive
With all the stress we under during these challenging times, a medical condition can easily morph into a mental illness condition, which operates under different treatment rules. The mental health directive provides direction should we become mentally incapacitated and instructions as to your preferences regarding: hospitalization, medications, seclusion and treatments.
To learn more about these important documents click HERE.
To learn more about how you can get your documents in order, schedule a FREE consultation with Bob today!
We offer affordable packages, which you can learn more about HERE.
Bob Michaels is extremely passionate about providing the best possible legal experience for his clients, and focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, business, and real estate matters. Bob has been able to provide piece of mind and a solid foundation to many folks in the Puget Sound area over the years and wants to provide resources and relevant information whenever he can.