What will happen to your assets and your family should you suddenly find yourself sick in the hospital, incapacitated, and no longer able to pay your own bills, manage your assets, or even make your own medical decisions? Since the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) this situation is a growing reality for many.
If you become incapacitated without the proper Estate Planning documents in place, you and your family could be at serious financial and medical risk. Without the correct documents no one would have the power to:
- make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your medical wishes
- make legal/financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes
- access your bank accounts to pay your bills and expenses
- write checks on your behalf or apply for medical insurance/benefits to pay for your hospital stay
- appoint someone to take care of your minor children
Without the correct documents in place, your family will have to go to court in order to get the legal authority to make your medical and financial decisions if you can no longer make them yourself.
Like many businesses, the Vermont courts are closed or placing serious restrictions on the number of people allowed in the court at one time. As a result, without having the proper Estate Planning documents in place the process to get legal authority to make critical decisions on your behalf could take weeks or months. Fortunately, with the correct documents in place, you and your family can be protected from these types of situations.
The 4 essential Estate Planning documents you need to make during the Coronavirus (COVID19) outbreak to protect you and your family are:
Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will, also known as an Advance Directive, is a crucial document that authorizes someone you trust, your agent, to make medical decisions on your behalf in case an emergency leaves you incapacitated and unable to communicate your own decisions. Most Vermont Advanced Directives combine the Healthcare Power of Attorney with a Living Will which outlines your actual wishes for your Agent and Medical staff to follow with respect to your medical care. Your Living Will outlines the types of medical treatment you would or would not want in certain situations such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), artificial nutrition and hydration (tube feeding, IV), maximum pain relief, artificial respiration, or to donate organs.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney When you create a Financial Power of Attorney, you assign an agent who can act legally on your behalf to do the following:
- Sign your checks
- Make deposits
- Pay your bills
- Contract for medical or other professional services
- Sell your property
- Buy insurance for you
- Make legal and financial decisions
Revocable Living Trust A Revocable Living Trust is one of the most important documents to consider creating as the cornerstone of your estate plan.
Similar to a Last Will and Testament, a Living Trust allows you to pass your money, property, and assets on to your loved ones in the event you pass away. However, a Living Trust has significant advantages over a Will, including the ability to plan for situations where you become incapacitated and can’t make decisions on your own. That’s because a Living Trust becomes effective the moment it’s signed while you’re still living, whereas a Will only becomes effective after you pass away.
Some of the Benefits of a Living Trust include:
- Assign a person you trust to act as your trustee to manage the assets in your trust in case you become incapacitated.
- Naming all of your beneficiaries that you want to receive your money, property, and assets after your pass away.
- Transfer your assets to your loved ones in the most efficient way possible by avoiding the long expensive, and stressful probate court process. Without a Trust, your family will have to go through probate court before they can receive your assets. Probate is already a long process, and will take even longer with the COVID-19 mandated court closures.
- Maintain flexibility within your estate plan. A Revocable Living Trust can be changed or revoked at any time while you are still living and competent which gives you the ability to modify your estate plan if your situation changes in the future.
- Keep control of your finances after you pass away to ensure that your beneficiaries achieve a specific milestone or reach a certain age before receiving their inheritance.
- Ensure your financial matters and the transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries remain private to protect your family and your estate from creditors.
Will A Will also known as Last Will and Testament is a legal instrument that disposes of your assets after your death. Without a properly drafted Will, state laws (known as intestacy laws) will determine how your assets are distributed and to whom they are distributed. In addition, a Will names a guardian to care for your minor children and a caretaker for your pets.
HIPAA Authorization and Waiver Hospitals are not allowing COVID-19 patients to have visitors and HIPAA prevents the hospital from discussing your medical condition with family members without a signed waiver. A HIPAA Authorization and Waiver is a “stand-alone” document to authorize your health care providers to release information concerning your otherwise confidential medical information to your family members.
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