Estate Planning

Four Estate Planning Matters to Consider During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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by Alli Thomas

May 28, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has created a surge of interest in estate planning. According to Google Trends, searches for the term are at a year-to-date high.

Estate Planning Google Trends

Source: Google Trends as of May 15, 2020.

 

Many important issues have arisen since the start of the pandemic. These include allowing intubation and using internet-based communications, such as Zoom or WebEx, rather than meeting healthcare providers in person.

Here are a few estate-planning issues to consider now:

 

Power of Attorney

If you become incapacitated, your named power of attorney (POA) may sign documents and pay bills on your behalf. A typical POA is written in such a way that it goes into effect upon your incapacitation. However, a doctor must issue a certificate of incapacity—and that usually must be done in person. In the current social-distancing environment, this type of situation is hard to navigate. One possible solution? Modify your POA to make it effective immediately, rather than upon your incapacitation.

 

Trusts

If you have a living trust, you will face a similar issue. Control between an incapacitated person to the designated successor trustee usually requires a certificate of incapacity. You can avoid this potential problem by appointing another person as a current co-trustee and authorizing each co-trustee to act independently of each other.

 

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Bank Accounts

Many banks do not accept POAs. One way to avoid problems between your bank and your agent is to transfer your accounts into your trust. Another possible solution is to check into whether your bank has its own version of a POA form that it will honor if you become incapacitated.

 

Advanced Healthcare Directives

One of the saddest aspects about the coronavirus pandemic is that many critically sick people must be isolated in a hospital room. Family members and friends cannot stay with them in the hospital due to social distancing requirements. That means that someone you may have appointed as your agent will not be able to sign documents or communicate with healthcare providers in person. To sidestep this issue, you may consider authorizing third parties (such as healthcare facilities, healthcare providers and financial institutions) to communicate with and accept direction from your appointed agents via video conference, such as FaceTime or Zoom.

Does your current advanced healthcare directive prohibit the use of artificial interventions to keep you alive? If so, that may affect your ability to be put on a ventilator, which many COVID-19 patients require to recover. Consider revising your directive to allow intubation if you need it for respiratory distress. While you’re at it, you may also want to decide whether you want to authorize the use of experimental medications to treat COVID-19.

If you need some guidance to change your estate plan—or if you don’t have one yet—we can help. Click here to set up a free, no-obligation meeting to discuss your estate planning needs with one of our financial planners.

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Alli Thomas

Alli Thomas has worked in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years, with a focus on retirement-related investing. She began her career as a FINRA-licensed participant-services call-center associate at Vanguard, and then moved to Principal Financial Group, where she worked closely with employers, assisting with retirement plan set-up and design, selecting appropriate plan investment offerings, and maximizing employee participation through targeted education campaigns and enrollment meetings. Alli has also worked as a qualified 401(k) administrator and registered investment advisor for several small investment firms. She now writes about all things investment- and finance-related, leveraging her extensive experience and passion for retirement planning to help investors make well-informed financial decisions.

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