The Coronavirus pandemic has forced families to think about topics they might generally avoid; serious illness and death. Because the virus doesn’t always present symptoms in the early stages, those who are struck with a severe form often do not have time to prepare their business and legal affairs before requiring medical intervention. What can you do now to ensure that your legal and financial matters are in order? Below are some recommendations on what you or your loved one can do to keep your home and business running smoothly in case you are hospitalized or otherwise unable to act on your own:
1. Review your Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA). This document allows someone to make your health care decisions in the event you are unable to. You may name one or more individuals whom you trust to act as your agent(s). We recommend that you name at least one alternate agent, should your first agent be unable or unavailable to make decisions on your behalf. If you become mentally competent and able to communicate with your doctor, the authority of your HCPOA agent ceases.
2. Review your General Durable Power of Attorney (GDPOA). This document is often referred to as a business or financial power of attorney. Your agent can pay your bills, file your taxes, and conduct your ordinary business affairs. Similar to the HCPOA, you may name one or more individuals whom you trust to act as your agent(s). Again, we recommend that you name at least one alternate agent, should your first agent be unable or unavailable to make decisions on your behalf.
3. Prepare a HIPAA authorization form. This document names the individuals to whom your physicians and treating facility may release your medical information. This document is now necessary due to heightened privacy laws. You may name your entire family or appoint someone to be the contact person who will share this information with key members of your family.
4. Prepare a Living Will. This document is your legal declaration that you do not wish to receive medical treatment if two physicians who have examined you (one of whom is your treating physician) declare that you are in the active dying process and that further treatment will only prolong that process. Not everyone is comfortable signing a living will, but many individuals want to make this choice for themselves instead of placing such a difficult decision on their families. This is a discussion you should have with your family if you are unsure of your feelings on this topic.
5. If you have not done beneficiary planning and have no Will or Trust in place, we recommend having at least a very basic Last Will and Testament prepared. Should you die, this will allow your family to receive your estate assets in a swifter fashion than if you should die without a Last Will and Testament. You will also be able to direct whom will receive your assets, rather than allowing the State to make that decision for you.
We recommend that if you already have both powers of attorney, make certain that the person(s) you named as your agent(s) is still willing and able to serve on your behalf. Please note that you can stipulate that your agent(s) is not authorized to make decisions on your behalf until you are declared incompetent. If you do not have all of the documents listed above, contact an estate planning attorney to prepare these for you. Under the current circumstances, most estate planning attorneys are working diligently to provide these basic documents in days, rather than weeks. Please note you will need to sign before a notary public to make these legally binding (social distancing requirements should be respected).
This list is only part of what you should do to properly prepare your estate plan. However, given the urgency caused by the Coronavirus, the documents referenced above will provide you with the most basic legal protection. You can always prepare a more complete estate plan once this health crisis has passed.
If you have questions about these or other estate planning documents, contact Davis & McCann, P.A., Dodge City, Kansas at 620-225-1674. Our office will remain staffed for as long as possible, but is not open to unscheduled appointments. We have strict policies in place to protect both our clients and our staff.
©2020 Davis & McCann, P. A., is a premier Estate Planning law firm in Dodge City, Kansas, assisting Western Kansas clients with Estate Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Business Formation, Business Succession Planning, Farm and Agricultural Business Succession Planning, Real Estate, 1031 Exchanges, Medicaid Planning, Long Term Care Planning and Special Needs Planning. The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not a legal opinion, does not provide legal advice for any purpose, and neither creates nor constitutes an attorney-client relationship.
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