The coronavirus pandemic has been a reminder of how quickly our lives can change. Seemingly healthy people are being afflicted with this virus, leading to untimely deaths and heartbroken families. These monumental and shocking events should be prompting us all to think about whether our estate plans are up to date.
Normally, for estate planning, the general recommendation is that you should review your plan every three to five years, or whenever there is a major life event, for example, marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, etc. Maybe it’s been several years since you’ve reviewed your estate plan. Well, now, while you are probably spending a good amount of time at home, is a great time to make sure your estate plan is in good health.
When you are revisiting your estate plan, make sure that your basics are covered. A well rounded estate plan has multiple vital documents. These include but are not limited to:
1. Last Will and Testament
2. Living Trust
3. Durable Power of Attorney
4. Healthcare Power of Attorney
5. Living Will
Each of these documents serves a very important and unique purpose.
Your Last Will and Testament dictates who will serve as the executor or personal representative for your estate, what power they have, and what they will be responsible for after your death. The Last Will and Testament also identifies how, when and to whom your assets or property will be transferred.
A Living Trust is also known as a revocable living trust and is a legal document that allows the transfer of assets in a trust to your beneficiaries without needing to go through probate court proceedings.
Durable Power of Attorney may be one of the most important pieces in your estate plan. This document gives someone else the power to act on your behalf. Being “durable” means that the authority of the individual you have assigned remains even if you become incapacitated. The power of attorney stays effective until you die or revoke their power.
On the other hand, your Healthcare Power of Attorney is someone you assign to act on your behalf or be your representative in situations where you are unable to make decisions regarding your healthcare. Your Living Will also ties in to this subject, as it is an advanced healthcare directive which provides instructions for end-of-life care. In Georgia, we most typically use an Advance Directive for Healthcare which combines the functions of the Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will into one document.
The next steps you will want to take are to evaluate if your estate plans still accurately reflects your current wishes. Since the last time you reviewed your estate plan, you may have changed your mind about something, such as beneficiaries, division of assets, or who you want designated as your powers of attorney. You also may have inherited or purchased assets since your estate plan was made, or neglected to put property into your revocable trust. Now is a great opportunity to review this information, make sure it’s up-to-date, and that it is what you truly want for you plan.
As these are just some general guidelines for you to think about when it comes to updating your plan, it is most important to reach out to The Estate Planning Law Group of Georgia. Your attorney can help you review your current plan and make any needed updates.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell