This year’s COVID-19 pandemic has caused many individuals to address the “what if” scenarios that were previously unthinkable, or at least the frightening situations that most people don’t want to talk about or deal with. If you’re the picture of good health, you may have started to think more carefully about your wishes and who you want to make decisions for you when you are unable.
Taking the time for estate planning when you’re in sound health can help prevent arguments and issues down the road. If you’ve started your estate planning during the COVID-19 pandemic, here are five things you should be considering.
Review or Create Your Patient Advocate Designation
Your patient advocate designation is also known as your health care power of attorney or an advance directive. This allows you to choose someone you trust to make health care decisions and advocate for your health when you are unable to do so.
This can include things like making decisions about end of life as well as various treatments. When doing this, you want to think extremely carefully. You may not be in the right state of mind to make these decisions, so you want to make sure the person you choose is on the same page as you when it comes to your wishes.
Update or Create a Durable Power of Attorney
Many people are unsure of what this is until they start their estate planning. A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances is a legal document that allows you to assign one person to make financial decisions on your behalf and have access to your assets.
Since you are designating who this person is, you can also decide how much power they have. They can have a lot of flexibility, which would let them make all financial, legal, or tax decisions. They also have the power to handle unanticipated situations.
This person’s power can either take effect immediately or have “springing” power. If someone has springing power, you must be incapacitated before that person can act on your behalf. In an emergency, this agent will be able to deal with bank accounts, transfer funds, pay bills, file taxes, and deal with insurance claims.
Review Your Wills or Trusts
When you’re in the middle of estate planning, it’s essential to review your wills or trusts. This will layout how you want your estate to be handled when you pass. What you intended to happen five years ago may have changed today. If you don’t have a will or revocable living trust agreement, this is also an excellent time to start the process.
Check Your Guardian Designations
Anyone with children under the age of 18 should have designated guardians as part of their estate plan. A guardian may be appointed in your will. But, in some states, you can sign a separate document to assign a successor guardian if you don’t have a formal will.
You don’t want your children’s guardianship to be left up to strangers or the courts. You want to have a say in who takes care of your children when you’re not around. Assuring that these documents are in place will do this and protect your children.
Delegation of Parental Authority
Due to parents working on the front lines and other circumstances, some children may not be living with their parents right now. In these situations, it’s essential to delegate parental authority to another responsible adult. This person will take care of the child until the parent returns.
This is just a temporary situation and does not take the place of choosing a guardian if a parent dies. Delegation of parental authority simply gives another adult the responsibility of caring for your child when they are not living with you. But, the parent remains the ultimate decision-maker. Delegation of parental authority can be done for up to six months at a time, and a parent can revoke it at any time.
Make sure to speak with your attorney about how you should proceed with your estate planning during this troubling (and hopefully temporary) time. At the very least, you can think through your wishes and get all your documents finalized and ready to sign when it is safe to venture outside your home.