The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted regular routines for most people around the globe. Following the crisis, most states have closed local schools, ordered a cessation of restaurant dining services, and imposed lockdowns and travel restrictions. Texas, for example, has reduced the limit of people allowed to attend a public forum to 50.
As you prepare for this threat by working from home and stocking up on essential groceries, you should also put your estate planning affairs in order.
Effect of the Coronavirus Crisis on Estate Planning
Unfortunately, Covid-19 has served to highlight our immortality. Consequently, Americans are seeking to get, update, or review their estate planning documents.
Owing to practices such as social distancing, firms have had to make a few changes. Most have adapted their systems and procedures to enable their clients to have their documents executed from home.
Several Governors have signed emergency orders that permit the notarization and witnessing of trust, wills, and powers of attorney through audio-video conferencing.
Additionally, the current volatility of the market has significantly lowered interest rates. This makes this a convenient time for owners to shift wealth to beneficiaries and implement new planning strategies.
Estate Plan Checklist
A comprehensive plan ensures both your family and assets remain protected should you pass away or fail to manage your affairs. These objectives are usually executed by various legal documents that include:
- A Last Will and Testament
- A Living Will or Directive to Physician
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
- HIPAA Release
- Declaration of Appointment for Guardian of a Child
- Appointment for Disposition of Remains
You don’t necessarily need to have all these documents. Your Celina estate planning lawyer will help you create an estate plan well suited to your needs.
Estate Planning During Covid-19
It is always wise to anticipate and prepare for every eventuality, more so in the face of the health threat we are facing. To ensure that you and your family are covered, we recommend that you review and update all your estate planning documents, such as trusts and wills.
You can put your affairs in order by:
- Reviewing your documents
- Finding alternative methods to have them executed
- Discussing urgent developments with your attorney
- Maintaining contact with your agents and advocates
1. Reviewing Your Existing Documents
Locate the copies of all your existing estate planning documents, either paper or electronic. If you don’t have any, you can contact your attorney to obtain them.
Next, check to confirm that your documents, in their current state, reflect your present wishes. If they don’t, then talk to an attorney about making amendments where necessary.
Remember that for most estate plan documents to be valid in Texas, they need to be signed and notarized before two witnesses.
Find out the provisions your firm has in place to facilitate this in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Below is a list of documents to inquire about:
- Wills and Trusts
Your will is the foundation of your estate plan. It indicates the mode and method of distribution of your estate in your absence. Make sure your will is created and executed in compliance with the statutes in Texas so that it holds validity.
Sometimes, instead of a will, clients opt to create a trust. If you have one, revise your objectives and update or correct the related documents.
- Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will
Review your Medical Power of Attorney to make sure that you have assigned this duty to a loved one who is still capable of carrying it out, in the unfortunate event that you get infected with the Covid-19 virus.
Your medical power of attorney document delegates your health care decisions to an agent. It allows them to receive information and make decisions concerning your health on your behalf, in the chance you can’t.
It is equally vital to update your preferences in your living will. A living will or Physician’s Directive indicates whether you wish to receive life-prolonging treatment should you be in a terminal state. You can designate whether you want to be kept alive artificially or receive assisted breathing.
- Financial Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney delegates your financial decisions to an agent. It allows them to handle your estate or business in your absence. If unfortunately, you get infected with the coronavirus, it is vital that you leave your assets in capable hands.
Talk to your family or a trusted confidant about this critical document and make any corrections, as you see fit.
- Other Powers of Attorney
Review your General Power of Attorney, if you have one. This document has a broad reach and permits an agent to settle claims, buy life insurance, operate businesses, and employ professional help on your behalf. It may be useful in the event you are out of the country, are deceased, or mentally incapacitated.
You may also update your Special Power of Attorney.
2. Determining Alternative Document Signing Methods
The quarantine, travel restriction, and social distancing policies that are currently in place, can make it difficult to access attorney services. In turn, you may be unable to review, correct, update, or sign your estate planning documents.
However, you should keep the channels of communication between you and your attorney open. At The Cawlfield Law Firm, we advise that you discuss alternative methods of acquiring estate planning services with your firm.
Find out what procedures have been established to serve your needs during the Covid-19 pandemic and pick one that works for you.
3. Notifying Your Firm of All Urgent Developments
Overall, not every piece of information is time-sensitive. However, some personal or family developments can significantly affect the state or nature of your estate plan. You should keep your attorney apprised of such happenings at all times.
Some notable events worth mentioning to your lawyer include any marriages, divorces, childbirths, or deaths in the family.
This is especially critical if these events directly affect someone you had appointed as an agent.
4. Following Up with Your Agents, Loved Ones, and Advisors
Notify your loved ones, agents, executors, guardian of minor children, and patient advocate of the roles you have appointed them to play in your estate plan. Make sure you maintain contact with them during this pandemic so that you are aware of any developments.
Although we are confident that we will survive this crisis, we must prepare for all eventualities. Amid the fear caused by Covid-19, having a comprehensive estate plan can help put your mind at ease.
Should you require help creating, updating, or reviewing your estate plan, contact an estate planning attorney in Celina, TX. The Cawlfield Law Firm office is now certified to conduct remote notarizations (which required a lengthy certification process), and can conduct consultations via video and telephone.