Amid the coronavirus pandemic, essential and frontline workers have worked evenings, nights, and weekends, to protect the general public from COVID-19. If you are one of them, you have probably sacrificed quite a bit of time and energy to support the most vulnerable members of our society. If no one has told you lately, we THANK YOU.
In any event, with so much going on nowadays, you must stop and ask yourself what you have done to prepare for your own future and care? Working with an experienced estate law firm like us, we can work with you to create an estate plan that will protect you and your family now and, in the future, when you pass away or if you ever become suddenly incapacitated.
For starters, a revocable living trust is a terrific way to protect your assets. Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to have a lot of money or multiple properties to benefit from having a valid trust.
Specifically, a revocable living trust has two key players; the trustee and the beneficiary of the trust. While you are alive and as long as you are competent, you may serve as the trustee of your trust and control all the trust assets, property, and money in it. However, keep in mind as a trustee who is managing the trust assets, you are doing so as the trustee of the trust and not in your individual capacity. In addition to being the trustee of your trust, you will also be the named beneficiary, and you will be the one to benefit and enjoy the trust assets while you are alive.
If for some reason, you become incapacitated or you suddenly pass away, your designated successor trustee will take your place in managing the trust assets according to the trust instructions, which is typically included in your trust agreement. Even if you are alive and/or incapacitated, your trustee’s fiduciary duty is to ensure that your trust assets are used and managed solely for your benefit. Once you pass away, your designated successor trustee will hold, manage, or distribute the trust assets according to the trust instructions/agreement. Your successor trustee takes on this role of trusteeship without judicial interference or court involvement. Making this a private option for managing your assets when you pass away.
Another powerful estate planning tool to use is executing a financial power of attorney. Specifically, this legal document allows your designated agent to manage your financial affairs on your behalf. Your designated agent can handle anything from signing checks on your behalf to opening bank accounts to paying creditors or filing your taxes. Your agent’s control depends on the amount of authority you grant to them in the financial power of attorney. This document is also helpful if you suddenly become incapacitated or unavailable to manage your own financial affairs. Keep in mind that you can always tailor your financial power of attorney to meet your personal circumstances and goals.
As it pertains to a medical power of attorney, this allows the named individual, oftentimes someone that you really trust, to communicate with your doctors and health care team your medical wishes in the event that you are incapacitated and cannot do so yourself. If you are unable to make these medical decisions for yourself, it is important that you designate a medical power of attorney that you trust and who understands your final wishes. With that being said, it is extremely important that you discuss your wishes with your medical power of attorney and do not leave it to them to guess what it is that you would want. A living will, or an advance directive can be used to express your wishes as well.
Lastly, you can complete a HIPAA authorization so that your agent, friend, or family member can easily access your medical information. This is a good option if you want them to have access to your medical information, such as your updated status or your test results, but you do not want them to make medical decisions for you. When there’s a stressful medical situation, or you’re overwhelmed, having a level-headed person with access to your medical information can sometimes ease tension between family members and allow everyone to process the situation with a clear head.
We understand that as an essential worker or frontline worker, you are extremely busy saving lives. As such, we value your time. That’s why we are available to meet with our clients via telephone or video conferencing, whichever is easier for you. We also use modern technology to help you sign and execute your legal documents eliminating the need for in-person meetings. Overall, your estate plan is not something you want to put off. Give us a call today so we can set up an appointment to create a personal estate plan for you and your family!
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