The COVID-19 outbreak has changed our lives in numerous ways, and it has prompted many people to reassess their priorities. A deadly and contagious virus definitely causes us to consider our own mortality, the fact that we all have a limited amount of time on this earth, and that none of us know with any certainty when our time will be up.
The coronavirus pandemic is not something that should cause us to live in fear. This too shall pass, and eventually, we will have a vaccine or something akin to a flu shot that will minimize our chances of contracting it. But what this situation should do is motivate us to ensure that we have our affairs in order – regardless of our age, and regardless of our net worth.
Estate planning is about far more than just the seamless transfer of wealth from one generation to the next, although that is an important part of it. It is also about making sure our minor children are cared for if something happens to us, and ensuring that our wishes with regards to critical healthcare decisions are adhered to if we are all no longer in the position to make these decisions ourselves. Privacy is another concern that many individuals have when it comes to estate planning, particularly those who have significant assets.
Important Estate Planning Documents for Individuals and Families to Consider
Everyone’s situation is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all estate planning solution that applies to each case. That said, there are some basic estate planning documents that most individuals should consider creating:
Last Will and Testament
A will is a foundational document that pretty much everyone should have. A will states explicitly how you want your final affairs carried out. This may include how your assets should be divided, which family members should receive them, when they should receive them (which could be at a certain age for a minor child, for example), and other specific terms and conditions. Your will could also include instructions about your funeral, certain assets you may want to give to charity, and any other special wishes you may have.
If you have minor children, you can designate the most capable individual(s) to become their guardian, so you know that your kids will be taken care of in the event of a worst-case scenario. You will also be able to appoint an executor/personal representative to carry out the directives within your will. This, of course, should be someone you can fully trust with this extremely important duty.
If you pass away without a will, it will be far more difficult for your loved ones to deal with your estate. Your assets would be divided based on Florida intestate laws, but the probate process could drag on for a while, and there may be legal challenges that could get expensive and emotionally costly for those involved. In addition, decisions like who will take care of your kids would be left to the courts, making it nearly impossible to predict who they might end up with and what their future path will be.
A living will is a written testament that designates the type of medical care and procedures you want or would like to withhold under various circumstances should you become unable to make these decisions yourself. Again, without a living will, your wishes for end-of-life medical care would be vague, which could cause disputes among relatives and hard feelings that could last a lifetime.
Healthcare Power of Attorney
Along with a living will, you will want to designate a health care power of attorney (aka surrogate) to make important medical decisions on your behalf. This should be a trusted individual who understands your instructions from your living will and is committed to carrying them out.
Financial Power of Attorney
In addition to healthcare decisions, you will also need someone to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated and unable to do so yourself. This could be the same person who is designated as your healthcare surrogate, or it could be someone else. The important thing is that you designate a trusted individual who understands how to deal with finances.
Revocable Living Trust
A trust is a financial instrument that is more advanced and not appropriate for everyone. That said, many people can benefit from having one. A revocable living trust creates a separate entity which can hold your assets and pass them directly to your beneficiaries upon death. This eliminates the need for probate and keeps the distribution of assets private and out of the court records.
Contact Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett for Estate Planning in Pensacola
The COVID-19 situation has brought estate planning more into the spotlight, which may be one of the silver linings of this horrible pandemic. Everyone needs a solid estate plan, and this is the time to take action on this if you have not previously done so.
At Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett, we are here to help with all of your estate planning needs. We continue to adhere to all of the social distancing guidelines, but our office is fully operational and ready to serve you. If you would like to get your affairs in order, contact us for a free consultation by messaging us online or calling our office at 1-888-219-4561.