The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to make many changes in our way of life. The ongoing public health crisis also has given us a stark reminder of our own mortality.
For some people, the uncertainty involving the pandemic has motivated them to create or update their estate plan.
An up-to-date estate plan allows you to control where your assets go after you pass away. If you have been putting off this important task, there is no better time than now. This article explains how you can prepare an online estate plan during COVID-19.
Preparing an Estate Planning Online During Covid
There are several advantages to preparing an estate plan online. First of all, you help keep yourself and your family safe by completing the documents online rather than in an office setting.
Next, you will have more privacy as you complete private information about your estate and you wished for how it is to be distributed. A third reason is you can complete the forms at your own convenience where and when it is most convenient for you. And, finally, you will save money by completing much of the work of estate planning online.
Estate Planning Documents During a Pandemic
The basic documents you will need for an estate plan are the following:
- Will or Trust
- Durable Power of Attorney (also called Financial Power of Attorney)
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Health Care Directives or Living Will
- HIPAA Authorization
- Guardianship Designation
The best practice is to have your trust notarized. You can get a document notarized online in a growing number of states.
As a binding legal document, a will describes how you want your assets to be distributed after your death. If you die without a will, the laws in your state will decide who gets your assets and other property. State law usually distributes assets to the next closest relatives, which may not be what you want.
Having a will in place allows you to bequeath your assets, including your personal possessions, financial accounts, property, and other assets, to whomever you choose. For example, you may wish to make a gift to a favorite charity, and you can specify that with a will if you have minor children, you may appoint a guardian for them under the terms of your will.
Additionally, you may designate a trusted individual as the executor or personal representative of your estate.
You can create a will online. Many states require you to have two witnesses watch you sign and date the will and then sign as witnesses. You then need to have the will notarized. Be sure to find and follow your state's laws.
Durable Power of Attorney Online
Also called Financial Power of Attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney is a legal document authorizing someone to handle your financial affairs on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated. This document is especially important during the pandemic since many people have been facing lengthy hospitalizations.
You need to name a trusted person who will serve as your agent to
- Pay bills and taxes
- Buy, sell, or maintain your property
- Operate your business
- Represent you in court
- Manage your retirement accounts and other financial tasks
Check for the rules governing the naming of an online power of attorney in your state. Some states only require this document to be notarized, while others require witnesses as well. You can create and download this document at lawdistrict.com.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Another estate planning document that is especially important during the pandemic is a Healthcare Power of Attorney. This document authorizes an individual of your choosing to make healthcare decisions for you when you are unable to speak for yourself.
If you do not have a Healthcare Power of Attorney and your medical team is uncertain who to talk with about your care, the team will make decisions based on state law. For example, state law may determine that your closest relative makes your healthcare decisions. If you would prefer someone else, you would need to have a Healthcare Power of Attorney in place.
Many states combine healthcare powers of attorney and living wills into one form called an "advance directive." Once again, check with your state laws to make sure you complete the correct form for your estate plan.
Other Documents for Estate Planning
Estate plans can be created and modified to meet your individual needs. Here are other important documents that can be part of your online estate planning.
Health Care Directive or Living Will. These forms alert medical professionals and family members to the treatments you want to receive as well as the ones you want to refuse.
HIPAA Authorization. The federal Health Insurance Affordability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) set strict privacy rules for patient records. This form allows you to name people who will have the same access to your medical records as you do. That way, they can communicate with your doctors and nurses if you are hospitalized. This document is very important during COVID since family members usually are not allowed to visit critical patients.
Guardianship Designation. This document specifies who you want to raise your children in the event of your death.
Digital Assets Inventory. This document gives details, passwords, and other access information for all your online accounts.
No one wants to think about estate planning. It's uncomfortable to discuss what happens to your assets after you pass away. However, these documents can help protect your family's future and give you valuable peace of mind at the same time. With the pandemic forming new strains and still on the spread throughout the world, you should not put off handling this critical task any longer – especially when you can create an estate plan from home.
Be sure to visit lawdistrict.com to find many of the documents you need to start online estate planning today.