WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
First let me begin by saying that I am not a doctor. I am an attorney based out of Puyallup, WA, and all of the information you will read in this article has been obtained from reliable sources such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Make sure to stay updated by following the links provided.
According to these sources, as of March 15, 2020, there are 149 confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19). The WHO has called the coronavirus a “pandemic” with more than 153,648 cases confirmed worldwide and over 5,746 deaths.
The coronavirus is a disease that we cannot ignore. It transmits easily and it is spreading at an alarming rate. Elderly adults are especially vulnerable and those who have an underlying issue such as diabetes, cancer, respiratory problems, among others.
The first thing you need to know about the coronavirus is how it spreads. According to the CDC, the coronavirus virus spreads mainly from person-to-person. Ways to protect yourself against been infected with the coronavirus include cleaning your hands often, avoid close contact with people that are sick, social distancing from other people, cover cough and sneezes, among many others.
With so many confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Washington State, I want to let you know some of the things you should consider to prepare yourself as it relates to your estate plan, and the proper documents you can put in place in the unfortunate event that you are infected with the coronavirus:
REVIEW YOUR FINANCIAL POWER OF ATTORNEY
If you get infected with the coronavirus having a durable power of attorney is a key document in your estate planning preparations. The durable power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. Meaning someone is going to be able to handle your financial affairs in the event you are unable to do so.
The durable power of attorney is especially important if you have a business or if you are an elderly individual and you rely upon others to assist you in your day-to-day affairs.
ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS TO CONSIDER OR REVIEW WHEN PREPARING FOR THE CORONAVIRUS:
REVIEW YOUR LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT
Now is the time to review your last will and testament. Is your will up to date? Do you even have a last will and testament?
A last will and testament to be valid in Washington must be signed by you in front of two attesting witnesses, all in the presence of each other.
REVIEW YOUR REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST
When was the last time you reviewed your revocable living trust? Do you need to update your beneficiaries and how they are to receive the property? Will they receive the trust property outright or in trust? Are the beneficiaries minor or adults? The answer to any of these questions can potentially affect your intent as it relates to your estate plan.
Have you funded your revocable living trust with your assets? If you have not funded your revocable living trust, then you will not be able to avoid Probate Court.
Reviewing your revocable living trust is particularly important when you have minor children.
REVIEW YOUR BENEFICIARY DESIGNATIONS
Assets titled under your own individual name pass through Probate Court. Assets such as bank accounts, IRA’s, life insurance, and annuities have the ability to designate a beneficiary upon your passing.
When the beneficiary is properly updated, at your passing, your beneficiary will receive the funds from those accounts outright unless you designate your revocable living trust as your beneficiary or to your estate if you fail to designate a beneficiary or if you beneficiary has predeceased you.
Make sure to call your financial institution or check online to review your beneficiary designation. Complete your beneficiary designation if you have not already done so or update them if you want to make any changes.
REVIEW YOUR HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE
The health care directive allows you to designate a person of your choosing to make health decisions on your behalf as well as receive health care information from your doctors. Have you designated a loved one to assist you with the unfortunate event that get infected with the coronavirus?
The health care directive is another key document in your estate plan preparedness.
REVIEW YOUR MEDICAL POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR MINOR CHILD
If you get infected with the coronavirus and have minor children, do you have a Medical Power of Attorney giving someone the authority to take your children to the doctor? What if you need to quarantine yourself and cannot take care of your child?
Have a Medical Power of Attorney for a Minor Child allows you, the parents, to give a family member the authority to take your child to the doctor and receive and make health care decisions on their behalf. This is one document that must people fail to prepare during an emergency.
REVIEW YOUR LIVING WILL
A Living Will is the document where you designate whether you want life-prolonging treatment should you be in a terminal state. Do you want respirators to help you breathe? Do you want to be kept alive artificially? All of these are hard questions that must be thought about ahead of time with the people you love.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON ESTATE PLANNING AND THE CORONAVIRUS
As an estate planning attorney, I deal with a lot of elderly individuals looking to protect their families. The elderly community is especially vulnerable against the coronavirus. It is our social responsibility to try to do everything in our power from spreading this vicious disease.
If you have any questions relating to estate planning and how to protect yourself in the event you are infected with the coronavirus do not hesitate to contact my office at (253) 840-0288 or through email at Office@DonnaPersonSmith.com. Together as a community we can overcome this ordeal.