Estate Planning

 

The coronavirus pandemic has created a surge of interest in estate planning. According to Google Trends, searches for the term are at a year-to-date high.

Some important issues have arisen because of the pandemic. These include allowing intubation and using internet-based communications, such as Zoom or WebEx, rather than meeting healthcare providers in person.

If you are motivated to document your assets and important contacts in case of illness, contact us for our updated COVID Estate Inventory Toolkit (info@woodtarver.com)

 

Here are a few estate-planning issues to consider now:

Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, your Power Of Attorney (POA) may sign documents and pay bills on your behalf. A typical POA goes into effect upon your incapacitation. However, a doctor must issue a certificate of incapacity—that usually must be done in person. In our current social-distancing environment, this type of situation can be hard to navigate. One possible solution? Modify your POA to make it effective immediately, rather than upon your incapacitation.

 

Trusts

If you have a living trust, you face a similar issue. Transferring control between an incapacitated person to the designated successor trustee usually requires a certificate of incapacity. You can avoid this by appointing another person as a current co-trustee and authorizing each co-trustee to act independently of each other.

 

Bank Accounts

Many banks do not accept POAs. One way to avoid this issue is to transfer your accounts into your trust. Another solution is to use your bank’s POA form that it will honor if you become incapacitated.

 

Advanced Healthcare Directives

One of the saddest aspects about the coronavirus pandemic is critically ill patients must be isolated in a hospital room. Family members and friends cannot stay with them due to social distancing requirements. That means your agent will not be able to sign documents or communicate with healthcare providers in person. To sidestep this issue, consider authorizing third parties (such as healthcare facilities, healthcare providers and financial institutions) to communicate accept direction from your appointed agents via video conference, such as FaceTime or Zoom.

 

Does your current advanced healthcare directive prohibit the use of artificial interventions to keep you alive? If so, that may affect your ability to be put on a ventilator, which many COVID-19 patients require to recover. Although ventilators have been marginally successful with COVID patients thus far, we expect new ventilator designs and updated protocols to dramatically increase their effectiveness by this fall.  Consider revising your directives to allow intubation for respiratory distress. You may also want to authorize the use of experimental medications to treat COVID-19.