Estate Planning Brought to the Forefront

Given the medically based impetus for this current societal and  home-based lifestyle, it brings to the forefront the need to deal with your estate planning. Our trusts and estates practitioners often get phone calls around the new year when people make resolutions to get their affairs in order or in the summer when couples go on trips without their kids for the first time. Similarly, when tragedy strikes, such as the death of a celebrity (Kobe Bryant, for example) people realize the fragility of life. So too, as each day brings more closures and more quarantines, the need for estate planning becomes more real.

At a minimum, every adult needs a last will and testament and advanced directives like a medical power of attorney, health care directive, HIPAA Release and statutory durable power of attorney for financial matters. A last will and testament, drafted by an attorney, will direct the disposition of your assets and the person(s) to be appointed as guardian of your children in the event you die. In the event you die without a last will and testament, the state intestate laws dictate the beneficiaries of your assets, and a judge will determine who gets custody of your minor children. A trustee may also be appointed under one’s will to manage the inheritance of a minor child.

A power of attorney authorizes an agent to stand in your place regarding financial matters in the event you are unable to act. Such activities include filing taxes, banking, purchasing and selling real estate, and filing for governmental benefits. A medical power of attorney and directive to physicians are used when you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself. As such, it is imperative that  your wishes are known to your appointed agent in the event you cannot speak for yourself. Other concerns for estate planning include checking beneficiary designations, purchasing life insurance, and speaking with the elders in your family about their estate planning.