ESTATE PLANNING IN AN EMERGENCY – WHAT CAN YOU DO?

There are times in our life when situations arise making it urgent and essential to have a Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney and maybe a Will. This is certainly one of those times. Here is what you might need and how you can get it:

HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: A Health Care Directive is a document in which you set out who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. It also allows you to set out your end-of-life wishes, rather than leaving those hard decisions to hurting loved ones. It can be obtained and completed for free at hospitals, clinics, and the links below. Most Health Care Directives require either two witnesses or a notary.

POWER OF ATTORNEY: A Power of Attorney is a document in which you set out who will take care of your assets and finances if you’re incapacitated. It can be completed for free from the links below. Most Power of Attorney documents require a notary.

WILL: The Will is a document which designates how you want your assets to be divided when you die, but only with respect to the assets that do not transfer automatically at your death. For both Wills and automatic transfers, the decisions you make can have tax, Medicaid and other complications. It’s always recommended that you seek the assistance of an attorney to discuss your estate and wishes if you can. If you are unable to do so, the laws pertaining to writing your own will are set out below.

AUTOMATIC TRANSFERS AT DEATH: You can set up your bank accounts, retirement accounts, CD’s, money market accounts, and all your other financial assets to automatically pass to your heirs directly (outside of the Will) by adding beneficiary or pay-on-death designations to those accounts. You should contact the companies holding those assets for instructions on how to add or change such designations. Additionally, any property you own jointly with others, such as vehicles or land, will pass to the other joint owner automatically at your death.

WITNESSES AND NOTARY INFORMATION:

Anyone over 18 can witness, including relatives, but its best to have non-related parties as witnesses if possible. A notary should not be related to you. Many banks are still open and should have notaries available. Of course, witnesses and notaries may require that you leave the house and have contact with others, but obtaining such essential legal service is allowed under both states’ Emergency Orders. Notaries may charge a minimal fee for their services.

MORE ABOUT CREATING A WILL:

Things to consider when making your own Will: If you have a Will that you no longer want, your Will should state that it revokes all prior Wills. If you have minor children, you can designate who you want to care for your children, when do you want them to receive money if not at 18 (you can choose any age or combination of ages) and who you want to control their money until they receive it. Do you want anything to go to charity? Is there someone you want to leave out of your will? If so, you could state that you intentionally leave nothing to that person and, if you wish, state why.

Once your Will is complete, you should put it in a safe location and send a copy to someone you trust letting them know where it is. This can be done by taking a picture with your smart-phone and sending it via text or email. If you’re not able to send a copy either electronically or by regular mail, at least let the person know about the Will and its location. The important thing is to make sure someone you trust knows that your Will exists and where to find it.

If your assets are over $2.5 million dollars, you should consider talking to an attorney about more complex planning.

WE ARE HERE TO HELP!

By necessity, the above information leaves out volumes of other considerations that might be applicable to you, depending on your situation. If you have questions or would like assistance with your estate planning, Benjamin Herbert at Herbert Machnik Law Firm is here to help. Contact us at 269-459-1432 or visit our Contact Us page.