COVID-19 and Nursing Homes
As of the middle of September, 2020, Maricopa County has 710 active COVID-19 cases. 606 of those cases are found in long-term care facilities (166), assisted living facilities (364), and rehab facilities (76). We have long advocated for everyone to have an estate plan that covers not only your assets, but also your healthcare desires. This is especially important in these times. With your life and the lives of your loved ones at risk, there is no benefit to procrastination. The best thing you can do is to have an estate plan in place in the event that the worst happens. Here are the things your estate plan should include:
A will is essential to include because it specifies how you want your assets and possessions to be distributed after you pass away. Beneficiaries of your estate are named in the will. It also may also include instructions for the care and/or guardianship of your children and pets.
An executor of the will is named. This is the person who will pay your bills, receive your income, close out your financial accounts and file your final tax forms. The executor will then see that your property is properly distributed to your beneficiaries.
Without a will, your estate will be subject to the decisions of a probate court. Instead of you having the final say, a judge will make those final determinations based on what he or she believes is best. Probate is an expensive and time consuming process that can be avoided with a living trust.
A Living Trust
A living trust is a legal document that is like a will with benefits. In fact, the same elements of instructions, beneficiaries and executors are usually included in a living trust. But there are important differences that make a living trust a better solution than having a will alone.
- Flexibility and Control—As the trustor, trustee and the lifetime beneficiary of your own trust, you retain full and complete control over all your assets during your lifetime. Upon your death, the assets in the trust are managed and distributed according to your desires written in the trust document. The revocable living trust gives you control over the assets you leave to your minor children, grandchildren or other beneficiaries who you would prefer wait to receive their inheritance (including special needs or financially irresponsible beneficiaries).
- Avoidance of Probate—Assets titled in the name of the revocable living trust at the date of death are not subject to probate administration. This avoids thousands of dollars in executor fees and attorneys’ fees, not to mention a possible one or two-year delay for your family while the estate assets are tied up in probate.
- Planning for Incapacity—If you become disabled, or simply desire to be free of the worries of day-to-day asset management, the revocable living trust designates a successor trustee who can step in to manage your financial affairs without the necessity of going to court to have a conservator appointed—which is, again, a very costly, public and slow process.
- Continuity of Asset Management Upon Death—Upon your death (or the death of the surviving spouse), the successor trustee automatically steps in and begins to manage the estate without the delay or “red tape” associated with probated estates.
- Privacy—Revocable living trusts offer privacy as to who inherits the estate, when they receive it and how much they receive.
A Living Will
A living will is a document that specifies the kind of healthcare you desire should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. A living will answers questions such as:
- What is a meaningful quality of life?
- Do you want to be kept alive artificially?
- Do you want invasive medical procedures?
This aspect of your estate plan is clearly important, given the prevalence of COVID-19 in healthcare facilities. A living will also conveys a durable power of attorney to the person(s) who will communicate with your physician and manage your financial affairs.
Peace in Troubled Times
Wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing and sanitizing your hands regularly are all helpful in preventing the spread of COVID-19. But realistically, no one is without risk of contracting it. For peace of mind, you must have an estate plan in place. Phelps LaClair, serving Chandler, Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale, is here to help you design a custom plan for your specific needs. As a second-generation estate planning law firm with 40 years of experience, we want to give you and your family peace of mind. Call us today for a free no-obligation consultation to discuss your goals and desires. The time to act is now!