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The COVID-19 pandemic brings into question the plans many may have for the future in both their personal and professional lives. During uncertain times it is important to begin to put personal affairs in order so as to avoid unnecessary hardship due to unexpected circumstances. The basic step in beginning the process is to ensure you have an estate plan in place and that it is up to date. Even without the threat of COVID-19, it is important to have an estate plan in place. Now, it is more important than ever. At Berkshire & Burmeister we stand committed to educating you on estate planning basics and are ready to help you begin your estate planning process today.
First, with the potential for severe health concerns associated with the pandemic it is increasingly important to ensure that your health care and finances are in good hands in the event of hospitalization or incapacity. A “healthcare power of attorney” and “durable power of attorney” for finances allows you to designate an “agent” to make important healthcare and financial decisions if health concerns arise. If you become incapacitated without such plans in place, no one would legally be permitted to make important health and financial decisions on your behalf. Not having these documents in place could result in a time-consuming and costly process for your loved ones to establish these powers through the court system. That process can be avoided with a sound estate plan. When time is of the essence, proper healthcare and durable power of attorney documents will ensure your best interests are always first and foremost.
Second, a “living will” is a crucial document that allows you to set the terms for your end-of-life care when the time arises.
Finally, a “last will and testament” or a “living trust” are essential documents to have in place for your estate planning. A Will is necessary in order to direct the distribution of your property at the time of your death, and provide for a personal representative to handle the distribution of such assets. A Will also establishes the appointment of guardians and conservators for any minor children you may have. Similarly, a living trust accomplishes some of these same goals while also providing lifetime management of your property in the event of incapacity. If you pass away without a Will or living trust in place, your state’s laws will dictate how your assets will be distributed among your heirs. In such a circumstance many of your assets may be distributed in ways you would not have intended.
It is important to have a full understanding and to weigh the pros and cons of each of these tools in your estate planning. Our primary goal is to assist you in making informed and educated decisions in your estate planning in order to minimize legal battles among your family members over your assets, minimize expense, and to ensure your property goes to those individuals you intend to receive your assets.
In this trying time you may be worried about how law offices are accommodating social distancing and other COVID-19 related concerns. At Berkshire & Burmeister your health and safety are of primary concern to us and we have implemented procedures in order to safely and effectively interact with you as a client to provide the services necessary to put in place your comprehensive estate plan. Please contact Berkshire & Burmeister for specific questions and recommendations regarding establishing or updating your estate plan.