As the COVID-19 spreads uncertainty and fear during these difficult times, it has forced many of us to confront our own vulnerabilities and assess whether we are prepared if faced with an emergency. Preparing for an emergency can be stressful, but there are a number of steps you can take to ensure you and your loved ones are better protected.
First, if you already have an estate plan, be sure to review the plan on a regular basis. Make sure all of your beneficiary and fiduciary appointments (executors, trustees, powers of attorney, etc.) are up to date and ensure that the current contact information for all parties involved is contained within your plan, so they may be contacted immediately in an emergency. One often-overlooked detail is making sure your loved ones know where your estate planning documents are kept and distributing copies to key individuals. Remember, these documents do not do any good if they cannot be located when they are needed!
You should also be sure to review your designated beneficiaries on any pay-on-death accounts, such as life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, etc. These can often be overlooked as they are often viewed as outside the realm of estate planning, so you’ll want to be sure they are up to date.
Estate Planning Documents
IF you do not have an estate plan in place, it is not too late to do so. Your estate plan depends upon your circumstances, but there are a few key documents everyone should have:
- A Will – this document is a statement of who you want to inherit your property. Many folks believe that their property will automatically pass to their loved ones when they die, but this is not always the case; if you do not have a Will, Illinois has one for you, and it is probably much different than what you would expect. Additionally, a Will is especially important if you have minor children, as it designates your choice of who should act as guardian of your child should you pass away.
- Power of Attorney for Property – this document allows you to appoint someone to handle your financial affairs for you when you are not able to do so. A power of attorney can help to maintain continuity by ensuring your financial affairs are handled during a time of crisis. It is important to understand that a power of attorney terminates on death, so it is not a substitute for a complete estate plan.
- Power of Attorney for Healthcare – This document allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions of your behalf when you are not able to do so. This document helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your medical care is in line with your wishes.
- Living Will – This document is generally a statement by you as to whether you want life-sustaining treatment given to you in certain circumstances where it is determined you are unlikely to recover.
One other document that you may want to consider is a Trust. Put very simply, trusts are very flexible documents that allow you to control your care and assets during your incapacitation and to control the distribution of your assets when you pass away, without the need for any court intervention or affirmation. Whether or not you would benefit from a trust is based upon your personal situation and your specific planning goals.
Discuss Your Plan With an Estate Planning Attorney
Having the above documents in place can greatly ease the difficulty you and your family may face during an emergency and ensure that both you and your loved ones are cared for. If you are unsure if your estate plan is adequate or would like to discuss putting a plan together, contact us for a free consultation.
Whether you are a current client or if you are looking for family law or estate planning assistance, our team is here for you and will continue to be available to address your concerns. We can offer remote consultations and provide services from a distance.