Estate planning has always been an important process. By sitting down and spending a few hours laying out some foundational plans, families can obtain peace of mind knowing that everything is in order, whatever the future holds. Estate planning also helps families maintain control over what they’ve worked so hard for by reducing taxes and avoiding potentially costly legal proceedings in the future.
While almost every segment of society could benefit from having an estate plan, before the COVID-19 pandemic, estate planning was largely something people only started to think about once they approached retirement. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the country, it highlights the urgency of having a plan in place for the future.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is to not take what we have for granted—whether that be jobs, in-person education, or the health and company of loved ones. Life can change in a moment, and it’s best to be prepared.
Estate Planning During COVID-19
A common misconception about estate planning is that it only benefits wealthy, older people. Certainly, estate planning offers wealthy families many benefits; however, estate planning is a very broad area of law that has something to offer almost everyone. For example, just a few of the things you can accomplish with the assistance of an estate planning legal practitioner include:
- Determining the type and extent of the healthcare you receive in case you are unable to convey your wishes to your doctors;
- Clarifying how you want your assets distributed at the time of your death;
- Naming someone to handle your affairs after you die;
- Naming guardians for minor children or loved ones living with a disability;
- Designating a person to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to express your intentions;
- Leaving a final message for your loved ones;
- Making final arrangements for your body; and
- Ensuring loved ones have access to important information.
In many cases, estate planning is not a burdensome or overly costly process. Often, families working with a knowledgeable estate planning legal practitioner will need to create only a few documents to meet their needs.
Important Tools for Estate Planning During COVID-19
While estate planning can be a very complex area of the law, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, most estate plans consist of a few very important documents, which, if drafted properly, provide crucial peace of mind and clarity even in the face of an uncertain future. The following are the most common estate planning tools.
A last will and testament, or a will, is the keystone of any Florida estate plan. Simply put, a will is a document in which you explain how you want your assets distributed upon your death. You can also name a guardian for any minor children in your will. When making a will, you will want to consider the following:
- What property you want to be included in your will;
- Who will inherit the property;
- Who will serve as the personal representative of your estate;
- Who will serve as the guardian for your minor children; and
- Who will oversee your children’s property while they are minors.
By clearly answering these questions in your will, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of a dispute among family members and ensure that your assets end up where you want them to.
Power of Attorney Documents
If you were to suddenly become incapacitated, who would make important financial decisions on your behalf? Who will pay your bills? Who will run your business? Who will manage your retirement accounts?
By creating a power of attorney, you answer these important questions by giving another person the legal authority to conduct business on your behalf. When you create a power of attorney, you determine the scope of the authority passed on to your agent and when that authority becomes effective.
Health Care Advance Directives
An advance directive is a tool used to outline your wishes in the event that you cannot express them. For example, if you are suddenly hospitalized and cannot communicate with your doctors, advance care directives can provide your loved ones and your doctors with guidance on the type of medical treatment you want to receive. There are several health care advance directives, including:
A living will is a legally binding document in which you specify the life-extending care you want—or do not want—if you are in a persistent vegetative state or suffer from an end-stage condition.
Health care surrogates
A health care surrogate names another person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Health care surrogates include a broader range of decisions than a living will, as health care surrogates cover temporary conditions, such as if you are under anesthesia.
Do not resuscitate orders
If you go into cardiac or respiratory arrest, emergency medical professionals are under a duty to provide CPR unless you have a do not resuscitate order in effect. Your doctor must sign a do not resuscitate order.
These represent just a few of the most important estate planning tools; there are many more that can be customized to your specific needs.
Reach Out to a Dedicated Jacksonville Estate Planning Legal Practitioner
If you do not currently have an estate plan or it’s been a few years since you’ve updated your plan, give the lawyers at Beller & Bustamante, P.L., a call. We understand the urgent need for estate planning during COVID-19 and remain open to help new and existing clients address their changing needs. With over 30 years of combined experience handling a wide range of estate planning issues, you can rest assured that you are in caring and capable hands when you place your trust in Beller & Bustamante. To learn more and to schedule a consultation to meet with one of our estate planning lawyers, give us a call or connect with us through our online form.