Over the past few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has changed many people’s mindsets as well as their way of living. The social distancing and shelter-in-place orders have created an unexpected amount of downtime at home. Also, people are concerned about COVID-19 and its impact on our health and finances.
No one likes to think about their own mortality, which is why so many people put estate planning on the backburner. But the current health crisis reminds us of the importance of being prepared. To protect yourself and your loved ones — and while you have the extra time at home — now is an opportune time to focus on your affairs and work on your estate plan. At a minimum, everyone should have three essential documents: a last will and testament, a power of attorney, and an advanced health care directive.
Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament is a legal document with which a person provides instructions about the disposition of their assets and the guardianship of their children. The executor of the will helps ensure that the assets are passed to the beneficiaries, according to those instructions. If a person dies without a will in place, Georgia law will dictate who will inherit your assets, and a judge will determine custody of any minor children.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is an estate planning document that enables another person (called an agent) to act on your behalf regarding financial matters. Agents can also assist with banking, filing taxes, real estate transactions (buying and selling property), filing for governmental benefits, and other legal decisions. The person creating the power of attorney can tailor this role to be as broad or narrow as they want. They can also choose when the power of attorney goes into effect, such as immediately, at a specific date in the future, or only under specific circumstances like severe illness or disability. Without a power of attorney in place, a court would appoint a conservator to decide what happens to a person’s assets if he or she is incapacitated.
Advance Directive for Health Care
An advanced directive (sometimes called a living will or a health care proxy) is an estate planning form in which a person lists their medical preferences, such as treating, testing, and other care options. This form puts doctors and hospitals on notice and is only used when a person is unable to make or express their medical decisions for themselves because of illness or injury. An advance directive authorizes your health care agent to make whatever medical decision you specify on your behalf and ensure you receive the healthcare you need.
Have Questions? Contact the Estate Planning Experts at Brian M. Douglas & Associates
The coronavirus outbreak has many people thinking about what they need to do to take care of themselves and their families. By making estate planning part of your To-Do list, you’ll ensure that your loved ones and your life’s work will be protected. While many states, including Georgia, still require the document signing to be in person and before a notary and witnesses, you can still begin the process of organizing and drafting. Our estate planning team at Brian M. Douglas & Associates is continuing to work with clients during this time; we have provisions in place to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an estate planning consultation, please reach out to us at (770) 933-9009.