Estate planning does not always appear on people’s things to do. Living through the coronavirus pandemic as well as approaching the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, should change the urgency with which people approach estate planning. New York currently has the fifth-highest number of COVID-19 cases among the states with more than 650,000 confirmed cases. Inevitably, some families during the pandemic will only discover that they lack sufficient legal documents when a loved one dies. To avoid expensive court cases, remember that estate planning is one of the best ways to prepare for the unexpected. To help you begin considering what legal documents to include in your estate plan, this article reviews some of the most common tools that people utilize.
# 1 – Wills
A last will and testament informs the court of who you would like to receive your assets after you pass away. This document also informs the court who you would like to make responsible for ensuring that your bills are paid and that assets transfer to the correct people. If you do not create a will and have not established other ways for your assets to be handled after your death, your belongings will likely not pass to the desired people. Instead, courts will often intervene and decide about who should receive these assets.
# 2 – Durable Power of Attorney
These documents let you appoint an individual to access your financial accounts, pay bills, talk to insurance carriers, and perform other financial actions if you cannot do so as a result of a medical condition. If you lack a durable power of attorney and something happens to you, your loved ones will be in the uncomfortable position of needing to obtain an attorney and proceed to court so your family can control your finances.
Slightly related are medical power of attorney documents that permit the creator to select an individual who makes medical decisions for an incapacitated individual. If you lack a medical power of attorney, someone you do not want might end up making medical decisions for you.
# 3 – Transfer-on-Death Deeds
These deeds allow the creator to select who receives title to the individual’s home after they pass away. Transfer-on-death deeds also mean that loved ones will not be required to proceed to court to probate a will. Otherwise, there is a substantial risk that your property might not pass to the person you want. Additionally, absent the appropriate deed, mortgage companies will not talk to these individuals because there will not be proof that the individual owns the property.
# 4 – Release of Medical Information
These documents let you determine who can access your health records if you are not able to do so. Otherwise, medical professionals due to HIPAA will not be able to release details to your loved ones. Remember, with the quick progression of COVID-19, there is a substantial possibility that you will not have time after entering the hospital to grant such a disclosure. As a result, it is almost always critical to create these documents in advance.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions or concerns about how to create an estate plan that achieves your goals, one of the best steps that you can take is to speak with a knowledgeable attorney. Contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation with a compassionate attorney.