The rapid spread of COVID-19 and daily reports of related deaths are giving individuals pause about their own mortality and the plans they have in place for managing their legal rights, financial wellbeing and physical health in the event they are too ill to make those decisions. At this time of global uncertainty, reviews and preparation of critical estate planning documents can go a long way toward ensuring some sense of security.
Following are some of the estate plan documents you may already have and should review at this time to ensure that they align with your current wishes, needs and goals. If you do not have these documents, it is not too late to draw them up and finalize them even in the current state of social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Your financial advisors can help you expedite these matters.
A last will and testament serves as the foundation of your estate plan and allows you to record your wishes for the handling of your affairs and transfer of your assets to beneficiaries upon your death. Because wills become public record after you pass away, you also may want to consider creating a revocable trust while you are alive. Not only will a trust enable you to control and structure the assets and wealth you built during life, including how they are valued, taxed and maintained for the benefit of your heirs, it will also protect family members from the complex and time-consuming process of probate.
By drafting a durable power of attorney, you may assign another person to make critical financial decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so yourself due to illness or incapacitation. Without this legal document, the courts may be forced to make these decisions for you.
A living will is a legal document that allow you to specify end-of-life medical care you authorize or do not authorize to be used in the event you cannot make those decisions for yourself. This can include your preferences to receive or decline a range of specific life-supporting measures, including ventilators, breathing tubes, surgery and palliative care, such as pain medications to keep you comfortable.
DNRs and DNIs tell doctors and hospital staff that you do not want them to take extraordinary measures to keep you alive. It is a good idea to share DNRs and DNIs with your primary care physician, your local hospital and the family members you name to make healthcare decisions for you.
A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint another person to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are not physically or mentally able to so. It is important that you advise appointees of the authority you grant them and discuss with them your personal preferences for end-of-life decisions before that time arrives.
A HIPAA release form authorizes medical providers to communicate about your personal medical condition and care with another individual you name to participate in your care decisions. You may share these forms with your local hospital and you doctors, who may ask you to complete separate releases specifically for each of their practices.
If you already have these documents, it is a good idea to review them now to ensure that the person you named to make medical care decisions on your behalf is still the individual you want to have that responsibility. In addition, you may want to consider naming a back-up agent in case your first choice is unable to act on your behalf.
Whether you need to create these documents or update existing plans, be assured that you can take care of these matters without leaving your home or breaking any social distancing requirements. Your financial advisor can help you manage these tasks and, depending -on where you live, provide remote notary services.
About the Author: Kathleen Marteney, CRPC®, is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an Independent Registered Investment Advisor affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. She can be reached at 800-737-8804 or via email at email@example.com.
Provenance Wealth Advisors, 515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.
Kathleen Montgomery is a registered representative of and offers securities through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.
Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors + CPAs. PWA is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services. Investment Advisory Services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc., and Provenance Wealth Advisors.
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