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ESTATE PLANNING: Are you Prepared?

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It appears that the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away any time soon!  Now, more than ever, these three basic estate planning tools should be in everyone’s preparedness kit.

Trust or Will:  A trust instructs how your assets are managed during your lifetime and distributed upon death. A will states how your assets are distributed upon death. A trust or will safeguards your family from disputes and other complicated and costly situations, like complex probate. Your trust or will also needs to be updated to reflect your current wishes and ensure that the administrator is willing and able to manage your estate.

Durable Power of Attorney (POA):  If you need help handling your financial matters, you need a POA naming a trustworthy person.  Your POA can speak, act, and sign on your behalf.  They can open your mail, pay bills, sign checks, bank, buy and sell property, and discuss legal matters with your attorney. Conversely, you should not add your children or any other third party to your bank account or real property. If that person is seriously injured, sued, or enters bankruptcy, your assets could be at risk. Your POA needs to be up-to-date because many banks do not accept POAs that are more than 7-8 years old.  A “springing” POA is effective only when you are declared incompetent.  An “immediate” POA goes is effective when signed.

Medical Directives:  Medical directives are an important estate planning tool.  Your directive names a person who can pick up prescriptions, attend appointments, and coordinate with your doctor. Without a medical directive, health care professionals cannot legally communicate with a third party concerning your condition, records, or treatment. During the pandemic, at risk or immunocompromised individuals should consider naming an adult child in place of a spouse on their medical directive.

Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Britten J. Hepworth. Britten is an attorney with Rowe & Walton PC and may be reached at (801) 298-0640 or by email at rw@rowewalton.com.

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