Given the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic, estate planning is more critical now than ever. No matter your age or health condition, there are specific documents that everyone should have in place to ensure peace of mind. Although COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines may prevent attorneys and their clients from meeting in person, estate planning can still be carried out by virtual communications.
While COVID-19 remains a health risk, virtual platforms provide attorneys and their clients with the capability to discuss estate planning matters remotely. Documents can be signed online as well. Once an estate plan is finalized, software can allow for identity authentication and the facilitation of electronic signatures. Washington law also allows for virtual notarization during a time when it may not be safe to meet in person due to the health crisis.
Everyone’s estate planning objectives are unique. However, it’s always the case that without an estate plan or properly executed directives, most decisions about the distribution of your assets, financial affairs or health care may be left up to a court to determine.
Some of the essential estate planning documents you should ensure you have in place include:
- Health care power of attorney — This document gives a family member, trusted friend, or another person the authority to make medical decisions for you.
- Financial power of attorney — This can be used to appoint someone who will manage your property, assets, and finances if you are no longer able to do so.
- Living will — Also known as a healthcare directive, this allows you to convey your wishes concerning end of life care, such as feeding tubes, ventilators and intravenous fluids.
- Will — A will can provide instructions on how your assets and property will be distributed when you pass, as well as designate a guardian for minor children.
There are also types of trusts that can be used to administer your estate and avoid the probate process. Creating a trust can also help manage tax consequences, depending upon your estate planning goals.
Even if you already have an estate plan, you should consider whether your documents are up to date. Since your personal situation and the law can change, reviewing your documents periodically can help ensure that they are consistent with your wishes and that your interests are protected.
Since there are specific legal requirements that must be followed to ensure your estate planning documents are valid and enforceable, it’s crucial to have the guidance of an experienced attorney.
With more than 20 years of experience, Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C. is dedicated to skillfully advising clients throughout Washington concerning estate planning matters. Call 253-272-5653 or contact us online to schedule a consultation at our Tacoma office.