The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, and no one really knows when it will abate. Even after COVID-19 is a distant memory, other pandemics are sure to arise. Men and women who lack estate plans should seriously consider taking the step of creating one during the pandemic.
At Lawrence Law Office, our attorneys understand that this is a stressful time, especially for older Ohioans and those with underlying medical conditions. We will gladly walk you through the creation of an airtight estate plan so that you can gain peace of mind.
The first thing you need to know is that our firm is ready and willing to meet your legal needs virtually. We can schedule phone meetings and communicate via email if that makes you more comfortable. Many people are afraid to go out and we understand that. We provide the same high-quality legal representation virtually that we do to those who come into our office.
Most of the creation of an estate plan can happen without having to meet, so human contact can be kept to a minimum. If we do meet, our office has put in place procedures to protect the health of our staff and the public at large. Reach out to our office if you have questions or concerns.
Creating The Essential Pieces Of An Estate Plan
Probably the primary purpose of an estate plan is to determine who will receive your assets on death. However, there are many different vehicles we can use for accomplishing this task:
- A will. This document serves as the cornerstone of many estate plans. You can name beneficiaries to receive specific assets. You also appoint someone to shepherd your estate through probate.
- A trust. A trust will hold title to a property, with a trustee managing it. At death, assets are distributed according to the trust document. There are many different types of trusts, and we can select the one that accomplishes your goals.
- Joint ownership. Some assets can be owned in such a way that they don’t need to pass through probate. Many people own their home jointly with their spouse. The same is true of bank accounts.
You might also have some assets with designated beneficiaries, such as your retirement account or life insurance. As part of an estate plan, you can review the designation and possibly select someone new.
Locking Down Health Insurance
Many people recover quickly from COVID-19. Others, however, end up in the hospital in the intensive care unit. According to CBS News, inpatient care can cost upwards of $20,000, and those without insurance will need to pick up the entire tab.
Usually, we don’t consider finding health insurance to be part of an estate plan. But during a pandemic, you definitely need coverage. If you end up in the hospital and die, your estate could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Many older Ohioans are on Medicare, which is excellent. If you are younger, we can discuss different options, such as buying a policy on the Obamacare exchanges.
Signing Advance Directives
These documents help clients plan for the day when they are incapacitated or otherwise able to make decisions for themselves. For example, if you end up in a coma, someone needs to step up and make health care decisions, as well as handle your finances.
An estate plan should include the following:
- Living will. You can decide ahead of time what life-saving treatment you want and what you don’t want.
- Health care power of attorney. You should designate an agent to make health care decisions when you cannot.
- Financial power of attorney. Your agent can make financial transactions, such as depositing checks in an account and paying bills. You can also give your agent the power to sell assets, buy investments, etc.
Advance directives take careful planning, especially choosing the right agent to serve as your proxy when you are incapacitated. We encourage people not to print out “fill in the blank” forms that they find on the internet since these might not hold up legally. Clients also benefit from discussing different scenarios with an attorney, who has drafted many of these documents and understands the difficult, end-of-life decisions that must be made.
Contact An Ohio Estate Planning Lawyer
The above is a general overview of how to create an estate plan during this (and other) pandemics. Everyone’s situation is different, so individualized advice is best. Contact the family law and estate planning attorneys at Lawrence Law Office today to schedule your initial meeting.