If there is anything we have learned from the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is that health emergencies can happen in the blink of an eye. Many families experienced devastating losses with little to no notice, leaving them with an estate to manage during an already emotionally challenging time. Families with an Estate Plan prior to the pandemic had the opportunity to adequately mourn their loss because they were not required to focus on managing the estate of a passed member. We would like to take this time to elaborate on what happens during an emergency and how each piece of the estate plan works to protect you and your family during an unmentionable circumstance.
A Will is a document that details the distribution of property and the care of any minor children. A properly executed Will ensures that the court or state statute will not make decisions on your behalf. During an emergency, having an established will is crucial. Ask yourself, if you experienced a life-or-death emergency today, what would happen to your stuff? Your house? Your car? Who would take care of your minor children or pets? Who will be left with the responsibility of managing your estate and funeral? All of these questions are answered and precisely laid out in a Will. This ensures that your loved ones can focus on what matters most after a loss - Family.
Living Wills are used to formulate a plan of action for medical care during a time where you might be unconscious or incapacitated. This type of will is used to formulate a plan of action for end-of-life care. Such details include your preferences for or against resuscitation, "pulling the plug", assisted hydration, artificial nutrition, and more. A living will also includes reasonable steps for health care providers to follow to keep you clean, comfortable, and free of pain. This type of Will allows you to maintain your dignity by remaining in control of your preferred medical needs. If you were injured today, who would make those important medical decisions for you? Living Wills provide the opportunity to decide what medical treatments are best for your end-of-life care and what specific guidelines to follow.
Simply stated, a Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone else to manage your financial, legal, or business affairs during an agreed-upon circumstance. For example, an individual living with Alzheimer’s may designate someone to manage their financial, legal, or business interest after experiencing a specific stage of incapacitation. A Durable Power of Attorney ensures that the type of Power of Attorney remains lawful and binding even after incapacitation. Have you invested in stocks or a business venture? If something were to happen to you, what would happen with those investments? Who would ensure they are properly cared for? Many people invest in stocks or business ventures to establish financial security not only for themselves but to provide generational wealth to their families for generations. Without a Power of Attorney, those efforts could go right down the drain. A Power of Attorney is a must-have for those who are interested in providing security for their hard-earned investments.
Much like a Durable Power of Attorney, a Medical Power of Attorney grants a designated individual with decision-making capability. Rather than the decision-making being centered around finances and legal or business affairs, the Medical Power of Attorney grants a trusted individual the ability to make medical-care decisions during a time where you may be debilitated. With a Medical Power of Attorney, you can assign an individual to be responsible with overseeing your specified needs, as well as the extent of their decision-making responsibilities. Health Care Power of Attorneys are a great resolution for families that have differing views on what medical treatment is best for an individual's specific needs. Why not remain in control by legally designating someone who you trust to carry-out your preferred medical wants and needs? While this sounds similar to a Living Will, it is different! Living Wills are typically reserved for end-of-life care and determine what type of care you would prefer, while a Health Care Power of Attorney determines who will be the chosen spokesperson for your medical needs and the extent to their power/responsibility.
While there are multiple variations of trusts to best suit specific needs, the most common trust is a Revocable Living Trust. This trust is created while you are living and may be altered or revoked at any time. In short, a trust is an agreement amongst three members, the trustor - or person establishing the trust, the beneficiary who will benefit from the trust, and the trustee who will manage and secure the property within the trust. The trustee will closely follow your chosen rules and will act accordingly. This allows flexibility in deciding who, when, and where your property will be disbursed. If an emergency comes your way, a Trust is a valuable option for providing generational wealth to your family.
Each piece of the Estate Plan is designed to provide a safety net for you and your family. Protection from stress, financial struggle, medical mispractice, family tension, and much more. In a moment of emergency, an Estate Plan acts as a roadmap for how to navigate your specific desires. From dedicating a percentage of your estate to donation, to indicating your preferred end-of-life care, an Estate Plan protects you and your family from any uncertainty.
If you are interested in speaking with an Estate Planning attorney, we offer a phone consultation with an Estate Planning attorney to discuss what pieces of an Estate Plan are best for you. Call us at (704) 769-3100 or email us at Estates@ShepardLawPLLC.com to learn more, today.