COVID-19 is a Sobering Reminder About Estate Planning
For many people in Michigan and throughout the U.S., estate planning is something they intend to get around to when the time comes. The rapid onset of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has turned “eventually” into “now” for estate planning purposes. Though the fatality rates and instances of contracting the virus are low for many individuals, COVID-19 is a reminder that planning ahead is vital to ensure your wishes are captured and enforceable.
While designing your estate plan requires thinking about end-of-life and death, planning ahead can provide you and your loved ones with peace of mind. Consider your estate plan as a gift you give yourself and your loved ones. Though you may need additional or advanced arrangements depending on your circumstances, there are three important documents to discuss with a Michigan estate planning attorney.
Last Will and Testament
One of the most important documents for estate planning purposes is your Will, in which you designate a Personal Representative to handle your affairs upon your passing. This person is charged with managing your real and personal property, distributing estate assets to beneficiaries, paying your creditors, and other tasks that you designate. Without a Will, the laws of the State of Michigan shall determine:
- Who can be appointed as your Personal Representative; and,
- How your heirs will inherit your assets.
In other words, without a Will, the state will dictate administration of your estate and you have no control over who acts on your behalf and who will ultimately receive the proceeds of your estate. However, for the greatest control and protection of your estate, a revocable Trust is the optimal planning tool in your estate plan arsenal.
Medical Durable Power of Attorney
During this COVID-19 pandemic, the medical durable power of attorney is arguably the most important estate planning document to have in place. Everyone over the age of 18 years should have a medical durable power of attorney. This document allows you to designate someone as your agent to make decisions and take actions with regard to your medical treatment, in the event that you become incapacitated. You can also specify your wishes with regards to life-sustaining care in the event death is imminent, i.e., life support and nutrition. Additionally, you can direct your agent to make anatomical gifts if you wish to be an organ donor.
Financial Durable Power of Attorney
Another important estate planning document is the power of attorney for financial matters. As the principal, you designate an agent who can manage your financial affairs in the event of your inability or incapacity, which includes your:
- Bank accounts;
- Real estate;
- Investment accounts;
- Retirement accounts;
- Payments to creditors; and
- Many other real and personal assets.
It is important to note that the medical and financial powers of attorney are only effective during your lifetime. If you do not execute them before you lose capacity, your loved ones must go to court to get authority as guardian and conservator to make decisions regarding your health care and finances, respectively. This court process is public and generally not what most people want when it comes to their estates.
Reach Out to the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law
COVID-19 has forced many of us to change our work and personal lives, but it also offers a reminder and even a positive opportunity to get started on the estate planning discussion. Our team at the Nawrocki Center for Elder Law can offer valuable advice and counsel on your options and customize them to your unique family situation. Please call 810-893-5277 or go online right away to set up a consultation. With COVID-19 protocols in place, we are still able to provide excellent and efficient services by telephone or video conference.