The spread of COVID-19 across Washington and the rest of the country has understandably caused many people to fear for their own health and that of their families. The virus also has been a wake-up call for people to get their financial affairs in order. Perhaps it will inspire more people to create proper estate plans that instruct on what to do if they become incapacitated or pass away.
If you’re seeking to create or modify an estate plan during the COVID-19 crisis, there are several things you should discuss with an experienced attorney — and you can discuss them over the phone or by videoconferencing to avoid having to come to an office.
First, a will is the foundational estate planning document, since it’s the surest way to make clear how you want your assets managed and distributed after your death. If you already have a will, when is the last time you reviewed it? Now would be a great time to update it if needed. For example, you may reexamine your choice of executor, the person who will be in charge of settling your estate.
Next, you should have a living will in place. Also known as an advance health care directive, a living will lets you describe the medical treatment you do and don’t want to receive in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself. In Washington, the document becomes effective if two doctors certify that life-sustaining treatment would only prolong the process of dying or two doctors certify that you are in an irreversible coma with no hope of recovery.
An important related document is a durable power of attorney. This lets you name a person who will pay your bills, move money around for you or even make court appearances for you in the event that any serious health problem prevents you from managing your own affairs.
It’s also advisable to review your beneficiary designations for assets like bank accounts, retirement accounts and insurance policies. These assets are not controlled by your will but instead will pass automatically upon your death. The same is true of jointly owned assets unless specific instructions are given.
These are just a few of the estate planning steps you may wish to look at during the coronavirus pandemic. The attorneys at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C., in Tacoma are available remotely to assist. Please call 253-272-5653 or contact us online to arrange a consultation.