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Estate Planning and the COVID-19 Pandemic: “Someday” is NOW

Estate Planning As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic rocks the world and disrupts nearly every area of their lives, many Virginians are realizing a sobering reminder that they haven’t done much along the lines of estate planning. For many, any end-of-life subject matter is too sensitive or morbid; others have just gotten so caught up with work and personal routines that they put off estate planning for when there’s more time to address it.

However, if there’s a better example of why a “someday” should be NOW with estate planning, it’s the COVID-19 crisis. A Virginia estate planning attorney can walk you through the process, consult with you on options, and work out the details for execution. An overview on the important documents will prepare you for your consultation.

Focus on the Three Key Estate Planning Documents: Everyone’s circumstances are different, from family situations and assets to net worth and retirement. Still, regardless of the specifics, the vast majority of people will need to consider three basic estate planning documents:

  1. A Will: One of the most important parts of your estate plan is your will, in which you name an executor to handle your final affairs, make gifts to beneficiaries, and indicate your preferences regarding a guardian of minor children, if applicable. Without a will, your estate goes through intestate administration in the probate process. Instead of your wishes dictating management of your estate, the laws of Virginia will apply – potentially leading to results you never wanted or anticipated.
  1. Health Care Advance Directive: By executing this document, you appoint a person to act as your agent for medical-related issues if you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions regarding your care. Your health care advance directive can also specify which types of treatment you do or do not authorize, and indicate your wishes regarding anatomical gifts.
  1. Financial Power of Attorney: This document becomes effective if you’re incapacitated and are unable to manage your assets and financial affairs. You can execute a financial power of attorney that names an agent for purposes of handling bank accounts, real estate, investment accounts, Social Security disability benefits, and many other types of real and personal property.

Estate Planning to Avoid Guardianship Proceedings: Even though you may realize the downside of not having a will, you may not appreciate the importance of #2 and #3 above. The health care advance directive and financial power of attorney are distinct in estate planning because they take effect while you’re still alive. Without them, the hands of your loved ones may be tied with respect to medical and financial decision-making.

To get the authority to act on your behalf while you’re incapacitated, these individuals will need to go to request appointment as your guardian. The process is time-consuming and expensive, and it can be quite contentious if your loved ones dispute the petitioner – or file their own competing petitions. Plus, regardless of who is granted the power to act for you with respect to health care and finances, you’re not able to explain your wishes or intentions as you would with the proper estate planning documentation.

Get Legal Guidance from a Skilled Virginia Estate Planning Lawyer

Our team at Shannon & Associates, P.C. is set up to conduct all types of legal business while we maintain social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like additional information and personalized advice on your estate planning options, please contact our offices in Chesapeake or Suffolk, VA to set up a consultation. Our Virginia estate planning attorneys can explain options that best suit your needs once we review your unique circumstances.

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