Essential Estate Planning Documents
In the past two months, we have spoken with a number of new and former clients concerned about the coronavirus. Phelps LaClair is a premier estate planning law firm in the Phoenix Metro area. We are well acquainted with folks who want a solid estate plan. But they also feel an urgency to get it done quickly at this time. We understand that. And we agree—there is no time like the present to take care of tomorrow.
With 52% of seniors lacking estate plans, it is even more important now that we are experiencing a global pandemic. People need to determine who will manage their medical and financial decisions should they become sick or incapacitated. And even people who have solid estate plans need to review their situation. A lot of things can change very quickly, and your essential estate planning documents need to be up-to-date.
Considering the amount of change that happens over a few years, are you certain that all of your documents are current? Have you recently acquired valuable assets? Are all of your trustees and powers of attorney still available to carry out their duties? Here is a checklist of key estate planning documents to have in place and current during this pandemic.
The most basic estate planning tool is a will. It determines who gets your stuff. In addition, you can also use a will to make provisions for the care of your minor children. If you die intestate (without a will), the state will determine what happens to your assets and to your children. This will involve needless expense and delay going through probate court.
A much better estate planning tool is a living trust. Like a will, a trust declares who your beneficiaries are, and what they will receive of your estate. With a trust, you can stipulate how your children are to be taken care of and name a guardian for them. A trust is funded by your assets, and you can be in control of them during your life. After you are gone, the terms of the trust are implemented by the person you name as the successor trustee. Probate is avoided, saving your heirs time and money.
3. Living Will
This is also known as an advance care directive. It stipulates what kind of medical care you want if you are incapacitated, unable to make decisions, or terminally ill. You can state whether or not you want to be kept alive artificially, and what should happen to your body upon your death.
4. Healthcare Power of Attorney
This is sometimes called a healthcare proxy. It enables you to declare someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. Usually, a close friend is named, but sometimes a family member might take on the responsibility. This person will consult with your doctors or other medical professionals to make informed decisions on your behalf.
5. HIPAA Authorization
This goes along with a medical power of attorney. It gives permission to doctors to discuss your case with the people named in the document. These would be your close relatives as well as your healthcare proxy. With this authorization, the named individuals can follow your progress and be advised of your condition.
6. Financial Power of Attorney
Like a healthcare power of attorney, this document authorizes a named person to handle your financial affairs. This includes bank and investment accounts, bill payments and debt settlement. If you are a business owner, that can be included as well. All decisions made under this durable power of attorney must be made for your benefit, and not that of your heirs or trustees.
Give us a Call
If you have any doubts as to the status of your estate plan, this is the time to set your mind at ease. Phelps LaClair has a free first time, no obligation consultation. Give us a call to discuss your goals, needs and desires. We will set up a video conference with you to plan the optimal solution for your situation—and ensure that all of your estate planning documents are up-to-date. In a tenuous time such as this, a wise plan is going to bring security and peace of mind.