Estate Planning During a Pandemic – Quit Stalling
The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon. This global health crisis has proved especially dangerous for older Americans, a stark reminder to ensure your affairs are in order. Here is an overview of what you need to cover.
Health Care components of an Estate Plan
Advance Health Care Directive
Every adult needs an advance health care directive, and it becomes even more important as we grow older and experience more health issues. An advance health care directive is a written plan so your wishes are known if a time comes when you cannot speak for yourself.
Review your advance health care directive with your doctor and the person you are naming as your health care proxy to be sure all forms are filled out correctly. Give each party a copy, and keep a record of who has these forms.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A health care power of attorney is a legal document naming a health care proxy. This is someone who can review your medical records and make decisions, such as how and where you should be treated. This person would come into play if you were incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself. Choose your health care proxy carefully. This person will potentially have to make difficult decisions, so a close family friend or relative (who is not a spouse or child) may be a good choice.
A living will is different from a will. It’s a type of advance health care directive that specifically deals with end-of-life decisions for people who are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. This legal document covers specific medical treatments, such as resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, pain management, tube feeding and organ and tissue donation. When writing a living will, think about your values. It’s also important to talk to your doctor, your health care proxy and your family and friends about your decisions.
Financial Components of an Estate Plan
Financial Power of Attorney
By creating a financial power of attorney, you can choose someone to help with your finances if you become incapacitated and unable to do so. You can choose how much control your power of attorney will have, like accessing accounts, selling stock and managing real estate. Choose someone you trust completely, such as a spouse, an adult child, a close friend or sibling.
You can set up a qualified trust to protect your assets as you pass them down to your heirs. If your children or grandchildren aren’t old enough or mature enough to handle their inheritance, you can set up a trust that gives them a small amount of money each year, increasing that amount as they get older. You can also leave money specifically for paying down an adult child’s mortgage, wedding expenses or student loans. If charitable giving is a priority of yours in retirement, a charitable trust can protect your assets until they are distributed to the charities of your choosing.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is forgetting to update their plans. Life insurance policies, bank and brokerage accounts and retirement plans typically all have beneficiary forms, and these forms typically override your will. You should update all of these forms, along with your estate plan, every couple of years and after every major life change, including marriages, divorces, deaths or births.
Estate planning is a key piece of a comprehensive retirement plan.
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