Many of us prefer to avoid thinking about unexpected situations such as divorce, having a medical condition that makes you unable to take care of yourself, and what happens if one spouse dies before another. However, the coronavirus crisis has truly brought these thoughts to the forefront of our minds, and the need to update or create important legal documents has never been stronger.
Estate planning documents address your personal health care decisions, protection of your assets, instructions for the benefit of minor children, management of complex financial assets, and tax planning for future generations. By having a proper estate plan, you have greater control over what happens to your estate and will provide your loved ones with more reassurance and peace of mind when they need to handle your affairs. A legal professional can work with you to create or update essential estate planning documents including:
Last Will and Testament
One of the first steps in estate planning is to write a thorough will. Who will take care of you and manage your finances when you are sick or unable to take care of yourself? Who will get your house, your money, and other assets when you die? These are the types of decisions you need to put in writing now and it needs to be legal. If you pass away without leaving specific instructions regarding your assets, properties, and health, someone else (and possibly the courts) will have to make these decisions for you.
Financial and Healthcare Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney is a powerful tool and should only be entrusted to a person or persons who you can trust will appropriately exercise discretion and act in your best interests, especially when you may not be able to adequately fight for yourself. This legal document gives the agent, an individual you select, the authority to act on your behalf to carry on your financial affairs and protect your property. Your agent will be your fiduciary under the law and be subject to duties beyond that of an ordinary person when it comes to handling your affairs.
A healthcare power of attorney gives the agent, an individual you select, the authority to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are incompetent or incapacitated.
The financial power of attorney and the health power of attorney are powerful legal tools, that can also become powerful weapons when in the wrong hands. The person you select to act as your agent should be honest, dependable, and if possible, nearby. You should also choose a back-up agent in case your primary agent is unavailable.
Living Will (Advance Health Care Directive)
While a Last Will and Testament addresses your financial matters, a living will, or advance health care directive, details your preferences regarding what end-of-life treatment you do and do not want to receive if you are no longer able to voice informed consent. It also outlines which end-of-life pain management and comfort measures you want to be administered during your final days.
A trust is a document that provides the rules that you want to be followed for property held in a trust for your beneficiaries (a person benefiting from a trust in some way). Trusts can protect your property, save on estate taxes, and help you avoid probate. They are also an important part of the estate planning process if you want to leave money to your children. Living trusts, also known as revocable trusts, can be changed at any time and the grantor retains complete ownership of the property. Once you place property into a revocable trust, you can, at some point in the future, undo the transfer by removing the property and ending the trust.
Is It Possible To Create Estate Planning Documents Without A Lawyer?
Though there are free forms available online, estate planning can be complex, and some standard forms do not cover areas that could be very important should your documents need to be executed. An experienced Estate Planning attorney can ensure that your estate planning documents comply with state law, take into consideration your specific circumstances, and deliver the best tax advantages. Further, you can rest assured that your will, even if contested, will hold up in court and your wishes will be carried out.
Most Estate Planning Documents Can Be Done At Home with Legal Guidance
Although many businesses have closed due to COVID-19, Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC is still available to assist you. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, New York state has recently allowed its residents to manage wills virtually, with video and audio teleconferencing among attorneys, the individuals, and their witnesses. We are working remotely and are available via email, telephone, and video conferencing to advise you. Documents can be drafted and emailed to you for review or delivered to you by mail or a tracked delivery service.
If you need to update or create estate planning documents, contact Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC at (914) 228-7448 today. We remain open and available to assist you.