In light of recent developments of the coronavirus, now is a great time to consider creating or updating your estate plan. An estate plan for most people generally consists of a last will and testament, financial power of attorney, healthcare directive (healthcare power of attorney and living will), and possibly a revocable living trust.
While all adults should have some form of estate planning, most people do not consider creating or updating their estate plan until a major life event occurs. It can be difficult to take the plunge and meet with an estate planning attorney. The vast majority of the population does not want to think about, much less talk about, death or a potential incapacity in the future. Major life events tend to push clients toward estate planning because the client’s desire to be prepared for the event outweighs their hesitation to discuss incapacity or death.
A few life events that should trigger a review of your current estate planning or creation of your first estate plan are the following:
- Birth or adoption of a child: One of the most important aspects of an estate plan for a family with young children is naming a guardian to care for the children in the event both parents were to pass away. While a difficult topic to discuss, being able to personally choose a guardian for your children is preferable to leaving the decision to a judge who is not intimately familiar with your family situation.
- Marriage or divorce: Upon marriage, spouses have certain obligations to each other under state law relating to inheritance. For example, a surviving spouse can elect to receive a certain percentage (depending on length of marriage and whether a prenuptial agreement was in place) of the deceased spouse’s estate. Divorce also has estate planning implications. Unless the document provides otherwise, certain provisions in your last will and testament naming your ex-spouse are revoked upon divorce. This outcome may or may not reflect your intent.
- Future illness or incapacity: Even without the current coronavirus pandemic, illness and incapacity planning are potentially even more important than planning for death. Every year millions of Americans become incapacitated from illness (such as the flu), injuries (such as car accidents), or the natural aging process. This type of planning is best accomplished while you are well. A financial power of attorney names someone (an agent) to make financial decisions for you if you are unable. For example, your agent can pay your bills, insurance, property taxes, and continue to support your children by making payments out of your checking/savings account if you are unable to do so yourself. An advance care directive names someone (your agent) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate with your doctor and express your wishes for treatment. The advance care directive outlines your wishes regarding end of life care to give your agent guidance that they can follow to make an informed decision about your treatment.
If you would like to learn more about our estate planning services, please contact Lodestone Legal Group at 615-807-1240 or reach out to our estate planning attorney directly at bmulvaney@LLGTN.com. We look forward to working with you!
Post authored by Brittney R. Mulvaney