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The Montana Estate Lawyer

Thursday, March 26, 2020

CORONAVIRUS / COVID 19: Essential Estate Planning Considerations for Yourself and Loved Ones

With the threat and uncertainty of COVID-19, many people may be thinking about what they should be doing to prepare for and handle their personal estate planning needs or those of an elderly family member. Here is a checklist of estate planning essentials.

Healthcare or medical power of attorney.  This document allows you to designate a person or persons to assist you with your personal affairs and medical care.  It allows for a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.

HIPAA authorization. This document allows you to name which individuals are entitled to receive information concerning your medical condition, which would otherwise be considered to be confidential.  Its purpose in the estate planning context is typically to authorize medical providers to share information with family.

Living will.  This document is an advance directive to medical providers which states that if you are in a hospital and the doctor has determined that you have an irreversible, terminal condition with only a short period of time to live, it is your decision that you do not want to be kept alive by means that only prolong the dying process.

Durable financial power of attorney.  This document enables you to designate a person or persons to assist you with financial matters and decision-making in the event you are unable to personally handle finances.

Last will and testament or revocable living trust.  The will is one's written instructions as to how financial affairs are to be handled upon death as to any probate assets. It comes into play only at death and requires a judicial proceeding called a probate to administer.  The will provides directions over what assets are to be distributed to whom and who is in charge.  A revocable trust is similar to the will but also has lifetime application to the individual, particularly asset management and incapacity planning.  Upon death, the assets in the trust are not subject to judicial probate proceedings.

Beneficiary designations and asset ownership review.  Many assets, such as retirement accounts, life insurance and annuities, allow for the designation of beneficiaries to receive the asset or proceeds upon the death of the owner.  Other assets may not have beneficiary designations but may be held jointly with other individuals. Thus, all assets should be reviewed for ownership and beneficiary designations, with the thought in mind that they should be set up in a manner that will accomplish the plans that you have in place or wish to achieve.

Going through this checklist of estate planning essentials, and then following up as needed, will give you the peace of mind and confidence that the plan you have put together reflects and protects your wishes.  If you need any help in this regard, we would be happy to assist.


Jon



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