As an estate planning attorney, I think about disability and death more often than the average person. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed thoughts of illness and death into the forefront of more and more minds and estate planning that has been postponed for years is now becoming a priority.
A comprehensive estate plan will do more than just address the distribution of your assets at death. Having a plan for someone to make health care and financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated is just as important.
Consider the following situation:
You are hospitalized and unable to pay your bills, so your mortgage payments and credit card bills are in danger of falling into arrears. You are also unable to direct the deposit of a required minimum distribution (“RMD”) from your retirement account, for which you would incur a major financial penalty. A Power of Attorney for Finances and Property would give the person of your choosing the legal authority to manage your finances and property. This would save the money of late fees and penalties. It is a common misconception that your spouse would automatically have this power.
During that same hospitalization you become temporarily unable to communicate your wishes for medical treatment. If you had nominated an agent under a Health Care Power of Attorney, your agent would have the authority to communicate your wishes for health care to your medical providers.
These two documents are only two pieces of a comprehensive estate plan. Remember it is much easier to get these documents in place while you are healthy. Should you become hospitalized, it will be challenging to have the documents executed given the current COVID-19 situation. If you become incapacitated, it may be too late.
The estate planning team at Neider & Boucher is here to help you navigate the sensitive subjects of illness and death. We have been conducting modified signing conferences for estate planning documents during the COVID-19 pandemic that are customized to fit our clients’ various comfort levels and preferences. If you or a loved one are currently in quarantine, we will work with you to develop solutions for executing your estate planning documents while keeping you safe. Having a plan in place will provide you with some peace of mind and stability during these uncertain times.
This article was authored by Attorney Maggie Premo. Maggie is a shareholder at Neider & Boucher, S.C. and heads the Firm’s Trusts & Estates team.
The guidance provided above is general in nature and readers are encouraged to reach out to Neider & Boucher, S.C., or to their own legal counsel to determine the applicability of these issues to their own personal and/or business needs.