There is no doubt that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has everyone thinking. What if I leave my home and get sick? How will my family manage if I am in the hospital? What happens to my children if I am not around? Does my family even know what banks I have accounts at?
Due to the disturbing nature of these questions, many people push them to the backburner to deal with later. There is no denying that the “emergency situation” has arrived. Now is the time to draft your crucial estate planning documents. This includes your Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Surrogate. Our firm has streamlined the process for getting these documents done without leaving your home and with minimal contact. Here is how:
- Schedule a free phone consultation with our attorneys to find out what you need. You can take photos of your existing documents (if any) and email or text them right from your phone. The attorneys will review your documents while on the phone with you.
- After you retain our law firm to draft your documents, we can get them done in 1-2 weeks’ time. For any emergency situations such as illness or advanced age, we can expedite the process at no extra charge.
- Once the documents are drafted, we email them to you for printing along with very specific directions. If you do not have a printer, we will mail them to your home with tabbed signature pages.
- When it is time to sign your documents, remember that they must be witnesses by 2 independent witnesses (people other than those listed in your documents) and notarized by a notary. We provide you with a mobile notary who will come to your home with face mask, gloves, and any other mandated safety protocols. The notary can bring two witnesses, or you can ask a friend or neighbor to watch you sign your documents from a distance. The mobile notary then takes your document and walks it over to the witness for signing. That’s it. All we ask is that you provide us with a copy of the signed documents (either by email or making photocopies and mailing them to us).
If you are experiencing an emergency situation, we recommend getting the basics done as soon as possible. The three suggested crucial drafts include a Last Will and Testament, Durable Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Surrogate/Living Will. Let us look at each one individually:
1. Last Will and Testament
A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is an important estate-planning document that, although losing in popularity to a Living Trust, can still provide crucial financial organization. Wills are used to designate who should receive your assets (homes, cars, money, pets, etc.) upon your death. The people or charities you designate are called beneficiaries. You can also appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will.
If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), your Will is where you (and your spouse) name a guardian to physically and financially take care of your children if something happens to you. Putting your wishes in writing reduces lawsuits that arise over custody (often involving both sets of grandparents) in cases of your sudden or unexpected death.
The word of caution with a Willis that your estate must go through probate court. Meaning that the beneficiaries listed in the Will go through a court process, called probate administration, to inherit what is rightfully theirs.
2. Durable Power of Attorney
A relatively simple and affordable document that prevents MAJOR legal conundrums. This documents works while you are alive (but sick, injured, or incapacitated) and allows you to designate who should make legal and financial decisions for you in case of an emergency and while you are incapacitated. This person is called your “agent”. Make sure you speak with whoever you designate beforehand to ensure they are on board.
The most desirous Power of Attorney is the Durable Power of Attorney. This document goes into effect the minute you sign it. If you have a Power of Attorney created prior to October 1st, 2011, then you should update it, as new laws went into effect that month. Specifically, the 2011 Florida Power of Attorney Act now requires that any “superpowers” such as the power to gift money, apply for government benefits, access a safe deposit box or vault, access digital assets, and so much more, must be distinguished in the document and must be initialed by the creator.
3. Health Care Surrogate & Living Will
A Health Care Surrogate, also known as a Health Care Proxyor Health Care Directive, allows you to plan ahead for difficult medical decisions. It allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you are unable to make them yourself. This is crucial because it prevents disagreements within the family as to who should make these critical decisions. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility.
If you do not prepare a Health Care Surrogate document, and you fall ill and cannot make your own medical decisions, then the healthcare facility will follow Florida law to determine who is responsible for your healthcare decisions.
A Living Will allows you to state your wishes about your end-of-life medical care. This allows your health care surrogate (person you nominate to make medical decisions for you) to best carry out your health care wishes regarding life sustaining procedures. Living Wills include a set of legal instructions about the treatment you wish to receive if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You can revoke or revise a valid Living Will at any time.
If any scary questions are keeping you up at night, it is time to create your no-frillsestate plan. Contact OC Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or firstname.lastname@example.org to get started with a free phone consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.