Estate Planning During Covid-19
There’s nothing like a pandemic to make you face your own mortality. While ordinarily, having a valid will already puts you ahead of the game, a pandemic can raise other issues that a will won’t cover.
For instance, if an individual becomes incapacitated due to illness, although the individual is unable to make any decisions on their own, the will obviously does not take effect because they are still alive. In this situation, the individual’s assets may become depleted, as there is no one to manage them, and their family will not have access to the individual’s assets to cover their needs and expenses during this period of incapacity. Luckily, there are ways to plan for incapacitation, should it ever occur. An experienced Florida Estate Planning Attorney can assess your unique situation and determine the best course of action for you. Three options are described below. If you have any questions about which option is right for you, feel free to schedule a free consultation with the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A.
Planning for Incapacity:
- Florida Durable Power of Attorney. Florida state law allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you become mentally or physically incapacitated. In its simplest terms, a Power of Attorney is a document, granting authority to act on an individual’s behalf. The scope of the authority is determined in detail in the document. A Power of Attorney can be used to grant authority to sell a home, access bank accounts, make financial decisions, access bank accounts, and more. Working with a Florida Estate Planning Attorney will allow you to ensure that all necessary responsibilities are delegated without being overly broad, and still protecting your interests and honoring your wishes. In order to be validly executed in Florida, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses and notarized.
- Joint Ownership. If there are certain assets that your spouse or significant other needs regular access to, joint ownership is a good option. For instance, adding your spouse as a joint owner of your bank account would allow them equal access to the account, and an equal ability to make withdrawals and deposits without your consent. It’s important to note that joint ownership also takes effect immediately, giving your significant other full access to your funds now, as opposed to a Power of Attorney, which doesn’t take effect if and until incapacity occurs. However, in many situations it makes sense, and does ensure that your family will have access to the financial means to support themselves if a period of incapacity occurs.
- A Florida Living Trust. A living trust, also known as a revocable trust, is a hugely beneficial form of estate planning. A living trust allows you to transfer your assets into a trust while you are alive, and continue using them throughout your lifetime. It also provides for the assets to automatically transfer to your chosen beneficiaries when you should pass away. This is really helpful, as it allows you to bypass probate, the process required for a will, which can take several years. An additional (and highly relevant) benefit of a living trust, is that it provides for management of the trust in the event that you become incapacitated. It also keeps all of your assets private, as opposed to a will, which makes everything public record.
Even if you already have an established living trust, it’s important to check with your attorney to ensure that it is up to date and funded. Likewise, if you already have a Power of Attorney in effect, there may be updates or changes necessary. For instance, if you made your now ex-spouse your Power of Attorney, or a now-deceased parent.
Contact an Experienced Florida Wills, Trusts, and Estates Attorney
There is a lot of uncertainty during this time, and after-life plans may be the last thing you want to think about. However, getting your affairs in order can provide peace and certainty, as you can be sure that whatever happens, your loved ones will be cared for and your wishes will be honored. Contact a West Palm Beach estate planning attorney at the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray, P.A. to schedule a free consultation today.