For over a year and a half now the entire world has been grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. We have lived through lockdowns, social distancing, and the race to create a vaccine. Many of us have also lost loved ones or watched them suffer. The Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic has also taught us some important lessons about estate planning.
What Should Be Part of Your Estate Plan during the Covid-19 Pandemic?
A comprehensive estate plan should already include the documents necessary during a health pandemic such as Covid-19. If your plan does not have them already, there is no time like the present to update your plan. At a bare minimum, your estate plan should include:
- Last Will and Testament. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many of us to face the possibility of our own death – maybe for the first time. Even without a pandemic, every adult should have a Last Will and Testament in place; however, the pandemic has put that reality in the spotlight. Your Last Will and Testament is used to direct distribution of your assets at the time of death, appoint an Executor who will oversee the probate of your estate, and name a guardian for your minor children. If you pass away without a Will, the court will rely on state intestate laws to determine who inherits your property and will be forced to appoint a guardian for your children without your input.
- Living Trust. A living trust is a legal relationship where property is held by one party for the benefit of another party. A living trust can be a great incapacity planning tool. If you become incapacitated or unable to manage your estate, the living trust avoids the need for a court-appointed conservatorship. When you create the living trust, you appoint a successor trustee who will step in when you are unable to manage your affairs.
- Financial Power of Attorney. If you didn’t have one before the Covid-19 pandemic, you should certainly have one now. A financial Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to decide who will do things such as conduct banking transactions, pay your bills, and control assets. If you were quarantined at home over the past year and a half, or if you find yourself sick at home in the future, someone will need this authority. In the absence of an existing financial POA, a judge could be forced to decide to whom to grant that authority.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. Even a general POA will frequently not allow your Agent to make healthcare decisions for you. For that, you need a healthcare POA which is a type of advance directive that allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. While it is always a good idea to have advance directives in place, it has become crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are hospitalized and become sick enough that you cannot make decisions for yourself, someone will need to make them for you. Executing a healthcare POA ensures that you get to decide who that person will be.
- Living Will. This is the other type of important advance directive to have in place. A living will allows you make important decisions regarding what end-of-life treatment you do or do not want to receive if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious or suffer from advance dementia or other irreversible loss of cognitive ability. If you do not have a living will in place, your family members will likely be forced to make these difficult and life-altering decisions.
- HIPAA Waiver. You have probably signed a HIPAA form at the doctor’s office or hospital, but you also likely did not take the time to read the form. In short, HIPAA prevents healthcare providers from disseminating your personal healthcare information without your consent. In the wake of Covid, signing a HIPAA waiver is probably a good idea given that family members are often not permitted to visit with sick Covid patients. A HIPAA waiver permits your loved ones to access medical information which can be crucial because some health care practitioners or institutions will refuse access to medical information without a standalone HIPAA waiver even if an active healthcare POA is in place.
Contact Indianapolis Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning, contact the experienced Indianapolis estate planning attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.