The Pros and Cons of Prenups | Tim W. Smith, Attorney at Law

If you’re counting down the days to your wedding, divorce is probably the last thing you and your fiancé want to be thinking about, and yet you might be rightfully concerned about what would happen to your assets in the event of a divorce—or your death. You may also be worried that suggesting a prenuptial agreement could hurt your future spouse’s feelings by making him or her think you don’t trust them, thereby creating friction before the marriage even begins.

I do recommend talking with your future spouse about your assets, what would happen in the event of your death, and also making plans in advance so you can feel confident that any children from a prior marriage (or an expected inheritance) are well-planned for no matter what happens. But introducing the topic of a prenup during that conversation is a hugely personal decision. To help you make the best decision for you I have put together a list of prenup pros and cons.

Prenup Pros

Sets clear financial expectations: For many couples, not openly discussing money and the partnership’s financial expectations can lead to big problems down the road. In fact, money problems are one of the leading reasons that marriages end, right up there with infidelity. A well-counseled prenuptial agreement could be an opportunity to start your marriage with complete transparency and clearly establish the financial and property rights of each spouse should a divorce occur or in the event of the death of either spouse. 

Helps protect your separate assets: If you have any tangible or intangible assets you are bringing into the marriage that you don’t want to risk losing, a prenuptial agreement can help shield that property from divorce proceedings or from a future “elective share” of a spouse upon your death. This can be vital if you have significant assets like a business, real estate, intellectual property, vehicles, or family heirlooms. And, if you know you’ll want to ensure your assets go to children from a prior marriage, a prenuptial agreement can protect those assets for your children.

Helps prevent a lengthy, contentious, and expensive divorce: Divorce is never fun and can often be both emotionally and financially painful, but putting a prenuptial agreement in place could make it less so. Clearly establishing the financial and property rights of each spouse when the relationship is at its most loving—and putting those parameters in a legally-binding document—can greatly reduce the chances of you two duking it out in court later if your marriage doesn’t work out. A long, expensive court battle is the last thing you need when dealing with the painful emotions and often-hefty legal fees associated with a divorce.

Helps prevent disputes over debt: Not everyone is equal in their ability to manage their money. As I mentioned earlier, disagreements over finances are a frequent reason marriages fail. Therefore, it could be a good idea to use a prenup to identify who is responsible for taking care of specific debts and liabilities. You don’t want to be stuck paying for your ex-spouse’s credit card debt when you had nothing to do with racking it up.

Prenup Cons

It’s not exactly a romantic gesture: People often perceive creating a prenuptial agreement stems from an expectation the marriage will fail or that it indicates a lack of trust. Such concerns should be respected and addressed as tactfully as possible. But the reality is marriage involves lots of issues that aren’t romantic, and dealing with such delicate matters up front could bring the two of you closer (or expose hidden red flags), regardless of whether an agreement is actually created or not. Whatever you do, however, don’t wait to have the discussion until right before the ceremony. It’s not only extremely rude, but it could lead a court to invalidate an agreement put in place at the last minute as being created with undue pressure.

It might not be necessary: What a prenuptial agreement can cover depends on what kind of assets you have and where you live. Given this, existing divorce laws might already split your assets up in a way you think is fair. For example, in community-property states, the court will divide the property you and your spouse acquired during the marriage in an equal 50/50 split, while each spouse gets to keep his or her separate property.

It can’t resolve issues of child custody, support, or visitation: It’s important to note that prenups can’t address certain issues related to children and divorce. For example, though prenups can help ensure your children from a prior marriage are able to inherit assets you want to leave them, these agreements cannot be used to address child support, custody, or visitation rights. Those issues must be resolved by the court, so a prenup would be useless if that’s all you’re hoping to achieve.

It may require two lawyers to be valid: Prenuptial agreements may be invalidated if both parties are not represented by independent legal counsel. And depending on the lawyers you each work with, lawyers who are not well-experienced with counseling, care, and conflict resolution can inadvertently escalate or intensify conflicts, rather than supporting you and your future spouse to get on the same page.

Alternative options

If you plan ahead, certain estate planning vehicles can be used to protect your assets from divorce settlements and ensure that assets pass to your children from a prior marriage in the event of a divorce. There are different types of trusts, for instance, that can be set up to allow you to protect assets for yourself in the event of a divorce, and for your children in the event of your incapacity or death.

In fact, such planning vehicles may prove much more effective at protecting your assets and providing you with more control over how your assets are distributed than a prenup. Next week I’ll cover the various ways to use estate planning vehicles to proactively protect your assets as an alternative to having multiple attorneys draft  a prenup or risk losing assets to a new spouse in the event of divorce or death.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

 

 

 

 

 

45 Secrets Your Surgeon Won't Tell You | The Healthy

 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the country, doctors across the nation are joining lawyers in urging Americans to create the proper estate planning documents, so medical providers can better coordinate their care should they become hospitalized with the virus.

The most critical planning tools for this purpose are medical power of attorney and a living will, advance healthcare directives that work together to help describe your wishes for medical treatment and end-of-life care in the event you’re unable to express your desires. In light of COVID-19, even those who have already created these documents should revisit them to ensure they are up-to-date.

 

While all adults over age 18 should put these documents in place as soon as possible, if you are over age 60 or have a chronic underlying health condition, the need is particularly urgent.

 

Advance directives
Medical power of attorney is an advance directive that allows you to name a person, known as your “agent,” to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself. For example, if you are hospitalized with COVID-19 and need to be placed in a medically induced coma, this person would have the legal authority to advise doctors about your subsequent medical care.

 

If you become incapacitated without medical power of attorney, physicians may be forced to ask the court to appoint a legal guardian to be your decision maker. The person given this responsibility could be someone you’d never want having power over such life or death decisions—and that’s why having medical powers of attorney is so important.

 

While medical powers of attorney names who can make health-care decisions in the event of your incapacity, a living will explains how your care should be handled, particularly at the end of life. For example, if you should become seriously ill and unable to manage your own treatment, a living will can guide your agent to make these medical decisions on your behalf.

These decisions could include if and when you want life support removed, whether you would want hydration and nutrition, and even what kind of food you want and who can visit you. To ensure your medical treatment is handled in exactly the way you want and prevent your family from undergoing needless stress and conflict during an already trying time, it’s vital that you document such wishes in a living will.

 

Keep your directives updated
Even if you’ve already created advanced directives, now is the perfect time to review the documents to ensure they still match your wishes and circumstances. For instance, is the agent named in your medical power of attorney still the individual you’d want making these decisions? Do you have alternate agents named in case your primary choice is unable to serve? Has your health changed in ways that might affect your living will’s instructions? Are your values and wishes regarding end-of-life still the same?

Coronavirus considerations
What’s more, whether you are creating new documents or updating your old ones, you should keep COVID-19 in mind. The highly contagious and life-threatening nature of the coronavirus is something medical providers have never dealt with before, and it has strained our nation’s healthcare system to the breaking point.

You don’t want anything slowing down your treatment options if you contract COVID-19. Because COVID-19 is so contagious, family members of those who’ve contracted the virus are often not allowed to accompany them to the hospital. This means your agent likely won’t be there in person to make your treatment decisions. Ensure your agent has access to a copy of your directives and be sure to take a copy with you, along with contact info for your agent, if you must go to the hospital for treatment.

 

Don’t do it yourself

While you’ll find a wide selection of generic, advance-directive documents online, you shouldn’t trust these do-it-yourself forms to adequately address such critical decisions. This is especially true during the ongoing pandemic, when doctors are constantly tasked with making highly difficult and uncertain decisions for patients suffering from this deadly new virus.

 

When it comes to your medical treatment and end-of-life care, you have unique needs and wishes that just can’t be anticipated by fill-in-the-blank documents. To ensure your directives are specifically tailored to suit your unique situation, you must work with experienced planning professionals to create—or at the very least, review—your medical power of attorney and living will.

 

 

Vanessa Bryant Asks Judge To Include Daughter Capri In Kobe ...

 

In January, I wrote about how the deaths of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Brianna, demonstrated the vital need for estate planning for people of all ages. At the time, little was known about the planning strategies Kobe had in place to protect and preserve his estimated $600 million estate for his wife, Vanessa, and three surviving  daughters, Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

Since then, court filings made by Kobe’s widow have shed light on both the successes and failures of Kobe’s estate planning efforts. On the positive side, Kobe created an extensive estate plan, which included the Kobe Bryant Trust to protect his assets, reduce estate-tax liability, and pass on his wealth to his family.

While the contents of the trust remain private (one of the many benefits of this type of estate planning!), the court documents do provide a summary of the trust’s terms. Upon Kobe’s death, the trust was set up to allow Vanessa and her daughters to draw from the principal and income of the trust’s assets during Vanessa’s lifetime, with the remainder going to their children upon Vanessa’s death.

However, while the trust lists Vanessa and his oldest daughters Natalia, Brianna (who died in the crash with her father), and Bianka as beneficiaries, his youngest daughter, Capri, who was born just six months before Kobe’s death, was not included in the document. Reportedly, Kobe and his lawyers simply never got around to amending the trust to add Capri before his untimely death at age 41.

 

A tragic oversight
Seeking to fix this oversight, Vanessa Bryant and Kobe’s best friend Robert Pelinka, Jr.—who were named Co-Trustees—petitioned the Los Angeles probate court to modify the trust by adding Capri as a beneficiary with equal rights as her sisters. Unless the court agrees with the petition, Capri will be ineligible to inherit her share of the family estate held in the trust, which could amount to wealth and assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

According to the petition, the trust was created in 2003 after the birth of the couple’s first child, Natalia, and its intent was to provide for the support of Vanessa and all of the couple’s children following Kobe’s death. As evidence of this intent, the petition points out the fact that Kobe amended the trust to add daughters Brianna and Bianka after they were born.

Although it’s likely the court will agree to the trust’s modification to include Capri, the fact remains that Kobe and his legal team made a major error by not updating his plan immediately following her birth. This mistake has undoubtedly cost Vanessa not only hefty sums of money in legal fees and court costs, but it also eliminated the trust’s biggest benefits by failing to keep Kobe’s surviving family members out of court and conflict, as well as exposing many of the estate’s details to the public.

And the most unfortunate part of the whole situation is just how easily this oversight could have been avoided.

 

Stay up to date
It’s a popular myth that estate planning is simply a matter of creating the proper documents, filing those documents away for safekeeping, and only revisiting them upon the creator’s incapacity or death. However, this is far from the truth. Indeed, this oversight by Kobe’s lawyers illustrates why most plans—even those created by multi-millionaires—fail to keep families out of court and out of conflict. And though Kobe’s family can easily absorb these costs, your family probably can’t without significant impact.

As Kobe’s case shows, even the most well-intentioned plan can prove ineffective if it’s not regularly updated. Estate planning is not a one-and-done type of deal—your plan must continuously evolve to keep pace with changes in your family structure, the legal landscape, your assets, and your life goals.

And unfortunately, this kind of thing happens all the time. In fact, outside of not creating any estate plan at all, one of the most common planning mistakes we encounter is when we get called by the loved ones of someone who has become incapacitated or died with a plan that no longer works because it was never updated. Unfortunately, by the time they contact us, it’s too late.

We recommend you review your plan at least every 3 years to make sure it’s up to date, and immediately modify your plan following events like births, deaths, divorce, and inheritances.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

 

 

 

 

The pandemic is causing us to consider a lot of things that we may not have before, even if maybe we should have.

It brings to mind something a colleague of mine shared recently. One weekend last year, she left her small children with a babysitter and headed out to enjoy dinner at a restaurant with her husband. But as she sat there, a thought crept into her head and wouldn’t leave.

What would happen to her kids, she thought, if she and her husband got into a car accident on the way home?

And even though my colleague is a lawyer herself, and she had a will at home naming guardians for her kids, she didn’t have a definite and clear answer that provided the comfort she wanted. Her will was in a vault, and her named legal guardians lived on the other side of the country.  It was that thought that spurred her to take action.

Chances of COVID-19 Infection in the Family
If you are young and healthy, it might be hard to imagine that you won’t be there to care for your kids. But if the COVID-19 pandemic is showing us anything, it’s that even a healthy person can contract a serious illness that leaves them incapacitated and unable to care for their children.

If there is more than one adult in the house, that may alleviate some of your worry. While naming legal guardians for your kids usually feels especially urgent for a single parent, parents with partners aren’t off the hook. You should take precautions too, especially since there are high infection rates among people who live in the same household.

A professor at the University of Florida has found a more than 19% chance that someone else in the household of a person infected with COVID-19 will also contract the disease. Researchers estimate the average incubation time is about four days and could be infectious for up to two weeks. That means it’s not outside the realm of possibility that you and your partner could both contract the illness, possibly at the same time.

An Easy Way to Find Guardians for Your Children
Even if you never contract COVID-19, you are of course still human, and vulnerable to accidents and other dangers that could separate you from your kids—either temporarily or permanently.

If you haven’t already done so, there’s no better time to decide who would care for your children in the immediate term if something happens to you, even on a short-term basis. 

And, if you are having a difficult time deciding who to name as legal guardians for your children, we can even help you make the right decisions.

Officially answering the question of who will care for your kids if you can’t—even for a short time—is one of the best things you can do right now. It is a real, concrete way you can protect your kids during this scary time.

If you need help with the process, please do give us a call and we’ll be glad to walk you through it.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you’re a parent, you may feel even more guilty than usual.  If so, you are not alone. Currently, the burden is on you to both carry on with your work and manage your child’s full-time care and education. Two full-time jobs that you’re trying to do by yourself, likely without teachers or care providers to help you.

If you are like most parents, you were probably struggling with guilt even before the virus. You may not always make it to every award ceremony or recital, and you might not have as much time to play with your kids or help them with their homework as you’d like. Those feelings of guilt may now be compounded by all the additional responsibilities you’ve taken on in a short space of time.

Take a deep breath and let yourself off the hook. I’m sure you are doing the best you can, and your kids see it, and know it too, even when they are being ungrateful pains in the rear.

Keep reading for a few ideas about how to shift the guilt.

Name Legal Guardians
Let’s start with one thing that is fully within your control, can help to alleviate feelings that you are not doing enough, and that you can get handled easily — name legal guardians for your kids, so only the people you choose will take care of them if anything happens to you.

Legally documenting your choices for who you want to take care of your kids if you can’t is a great first step to getting legal planning in place for the people you love. (Yes, I said “choices” because you want to name at least two alternates after your first choice.) And doing so can provide you with a lot of relief, if you have not yet taken care of this for your kids.

Quality Time Doing…Nothing
While you’re probably already spending a significant amount of time with your kids, you may be too tired or overwhelmed to plan big activities, or the things you used to do for “quality time” may not be available.

So, what’s a parent to do?

Nothing.

Yes, you read that right, nothing.

If you can take 15 minutes or so out of your day and do nothing with your child, it could be the best 15 minutes you spend with them, and with yourself, all day.

It’s truly one of the best gifts you can give to your kids, and the best part is you don’t have to do anything. Mostly, our kids really just want to know we are there, and will give them our full attention, without screens, even if they aren’t paying attention to us.

Talk About It
If you’re on an emotional roller-coaster right now, your kids are probably having some similar struggles. This is an opportunity to connect with them, and a good time to show them a little vulnerability of your own. Remember how important sharing words of love and comfort can be, both to them and to you.

If you have been feeling alone and need support, you can also reach outside of your family for help. Sometimes venting to your friends is enough, and chances are they’ll be able to relate! But if you are not getting the support you need, there are professionals who will communicate via phone and even text message. You can always reach out to us for a referral but you can also find local therapists and phone, video, and online therapists through Psychology Today’s directory.

The point is, you are NOT alone, and you don’t have to feel alone. There are resources available and if we can be of support to you in any way, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

It’s an unfortunate fact that predators emerge during times of crisis to take advantage of people. That means the COVID-19 pandemic can leave your elderly parents vulnerable in more ways than one. But even when things go back to normal, this chronic problem of financial exploitation will still be a risk.

We see it happen far too often. Maybe your parents live several hours away, or in another state or country, and someone in their community gets close to them. Or maybe they have a close relationship with a financial advisor who isn’t really looking out for their best interests. This person could even be another family member, friend, business partner, hired caregiver, professional advisor, or just a casual acquaintance.

Sometimes, when bad actors become involved with your parents’ lives and assets, it can lead not only to a loss of money, but even a loss of personal freedom. One of the worst cases of this I’ve heard of is the case of Milo, a retired veteran living in Arizona, and his son Greg, who lives in California. It all started when Milo asked Greg to help him protect his small amount of money from a family member who was “borrowing” it freely. All Milo had was a savings of $140,000 and payments of $3,700 per month from social security, a pension, and veteran’s benefits.

To help his father out, Greg applied for guardianship of Milo’s money, and the court granted it. But at the same time, without notifying Greg, the court appointed a professional financial Conservator that neither Milo nor Greg knew. The Conservator quickly set to draining Milo’s small savings, with the court barring Greg from filing any more motions.

The situation escalated even further when the Conservator decided to move Milo from his assisted living facility to a cheap lock-down facility where he wouldn’t even have access to the outdoors. This would, of course, free up more money for the Conservator to access. Before this could happen, though, Greg hurried to pick his father up and bring him back to California with him.

Now, the two are essentially on-the-run from authorities, who are trying to bring Milo back to Arizona and under the control of the Conservator. Milo and Greg are out of funds and are now trying to raise capital to mount a legal battle and free Milo from this terrible situation.

The scariest part is that Milo and Greg had all the proper legal documents in place. Sometimes, though, that is not enough to protect your parents from being taken advantage of—even to this extreme. Especially in a time of stress and confusion like the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently living in, it is vital to be vigilant and get the best possible counsel to avoid something like this happening.

This isn’t meant to make you paranoid or distrustful of the people around you, or of how your parents handle their own lives. Well, maybe it is a little. Mostly, though, it’s a call to encourage you and your family to be aware, educated, and empowered in knowing what risks are possible for your parents, and for your future inheritance.

Look out for the following “red flag” actions from influencers:

  1. Preventing important communication between family members;
  2. Withholding documents from other family members;
  3. Encouraging financial gifts or economic benefits to recently met connections (usually in the same network as your parents’ “new friend”);
  4. Naming recently met connections as attorney-in-fact (under a financial power of attorney), or as a joint owner on financial accounts, real estate, and other assets;
  5. Giving financial advice that may not be in your or your parents’ best interests, but rather in the interests of the advisor.

We recommend you start talking with your elderly parents now about how they want their affairs to be handled. Also, you should immediately investigate any situation where you suspect your loved ones are being taken advantage of. There have been too many cases of financial abuse or inappropriate influence where family members are too late to stop the bad actor.

Ideally, you’ll know the value of your parents’ tangible assets (i.e., home, car, business, stocks) and intangible assets (i.e., generational stories, personal relationships, theological legacies). Additionally, you should be working with an advisor to help you understand how family dynamics and the law will impact you, and everything that matters to you and your parents when they’re gone.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

If you or your parents have a retirement account, (or any investment accounts for that matter) now is a perfect time to get connected to how those accounts are invested. While you may have outsourced all of this to a broker, which is fine, I don’t believe you should ever allow your investments to be made without your clear understanding of exactly what you are investing in as well as how and whether your investments align with your plans for the future.  

Some brokers and advisors believe this, too. Unfortunately, because it takes more time to ensure you understand your investments, many brokers and advisors would rather keep you in the dark. Now is not the time (or ever, really) for you to be okay with being in the dark about your investments.

Educate Yourself
If you or your parents have a retirement account, and you are not intimately connected to how those assets are being invested, it’s time to get more involved.

Log in to your retirement account or pull your last statement and look. Many brokerages select investment funds for their clients’ portfolios based on rates of growth. They’ll offer investment options based on a few tiers of growth and risk, and very often you have no idea what your assets are actually invested in.

Labels like “slow-growth” or “conservative” or “high-growth” or “income” aren’t enough to tell you exactly where your money is invested. So, what you want to do now is look at your statement, which should contain the names of the funds chosen for you, and you can go from there to do your research. Look up each of the funds on sites like Yahoo Finance to see what you are investing in, and whether you understand these companies, believe in their future growth, and want to stay invested there.

Go through this process with your parents, too. The money they have invested in the stock market is part of your overall family wealth. If it’s not there to support them through their senior years, that financial responsibility will eventually fall to you. Having these conversations with them now can be difficult, but it’s important.

If you have a broker you work with, call them now, and ask to get on a video conference. Then, have them help you review each investment, why it’s been chosen, and whether there may be better or other options for you or your parents.

Here’s the key: make sure you understand it, and don’t hang up the phone until you do. If your broker is using words you don’t understand, keep asking questions until you do understand. If you need a referral to an advisor give us a call.

With everything that is happening in the world—and with the volatility of the stock market and our current reality —knowing your options is vital to preserving the full legacy you and your parents have worked hard to build.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

Right now, huge numbers of people are coming face to face with their own mortality, and realizing they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality, and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.

Recently I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she wasn’t listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital.

Naturally, she didn’t give up trying, and eventually someone told her that he wasn’t in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she hadn’t heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé wasn’t in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He’d passed away the day before, and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.

Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially to people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you’ll leave behind, if you become sick or die?

Without a doubt, you’d want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You’d also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

Covering the Bases
First, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the fact is, we will all die. It’s better to face that with those we love so that when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be, and so will they.

Create an Asset Inventory
This is something you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and will be important to them, if something happens to you.

First, get out your calendar and schedule an appointment with yourself. Set aside an hour or so to put all your asset information in one place (we use a spreadsheet when we do this for clients): real estate, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, stocks, bonds, business interests, etc.

Update Your Health Care Directive
This is extremely important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents.

Your Health Care Directive should have three parts:

  • A Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
  • A Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you can’t make them yourself.
  • A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids
A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. This is the single most important thing parents of minor children should do because it would have the greatest impact on – or leave the biggest hole for – our minor children if something happens to us.

Going Beyond Just the Basics
The goal in setting up an estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of court and out of conflict. To do that, you must make the right decisions during the planning process, retitle assets so they are protected by your plan, and ensure your plan stays up to date for the rest of your life.

Estate planning is all about merging your family dynamics, assets (both material and non-material), and the law into a cohesive plan which accomplishes all that you really want to do for the people you love.

If you are ready to face your mortality courageously and want to ensure your family is protected and provided for no matter what, don’t wait. Get the help of a professional (someone who’s providing virtual planning sessions) and get started now.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

As you already know, the COVID-19 pandemic means there’s no more “business as usual”. So don’t just hope you can survive until things return to normal. Strategize, now, on how you can take what control is in your sphere of influence. Once you have attended to your (and your parents’) immediate needs, it will be time to consider more long-term plans.

In this time of stress and chaos, your parents may be resistant to talking about estate planning. It may feel too pessimistic to plan for the worst amid a scary situation. However, that’s exactly why it’s important right now to do so. Plus, since hopefully you are staying inside, you may have the time to dedicate to getting these tasks taken care of.

Here are actions you can, and should, take to ensure you and your family are fully protected legally.

Update Your Health Care Documents

Above all, you first need to ensure that both you and your parents have your health care documents in order. This will be an invaluable reference point for those who are assisting you, whether they be friends, family, or medical professionals.

There are three important and distinct documents you should have in place: Your advanced directive, HIPAA waiver, and living will. They are separate documents but all work together. Think of them like the legs of a stool. If just one is missing or defective, the stool will fall – with you in it!

Your advanced directive identifies and gives legal authority to whom you would like to make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself. Many people think spouses automatically have this legal authority and therefore don’t need this type of document for each other. That is a mistaken belief which can cost married couples substantial time, money, and anguish when a medical emergency arises.

A HIPAA waiver is important because even though your advanced directive gives authority to someone of your choosing to make medical decisions for you, privacy laws will prevent your doctor from sharing your medical information with that person. I see a lot of advanced directives which include a HIPAA section, but this is not legally sound and often fails. For starters, the privacy laws mandate the HIPAA waiver be written in a certain font style and size. Trust me on this. You want your HIPAA waiver to be a standalone document.

Your living will is different from your last will and testament. While a last will deals with the decisions to be made after death, a living will pertains to decisions which are to be made while you are still alive. This is where you will provide guidance on when you would want to be placed on life support, removed from life support, whether you want to donate your organs, etc.

Even if you have already created your medical directives, I urge you to take out any existing documents now and review them. Have your circumstances changed? Do you have additions to make? Encourage your parents to do the same thing, and to communicate with you about what their documents say. If you are unsure whether your health care documents are in ship-shape, call us, and we’ll be happy to review them for you.

Ensure Your Estate Plan is Up to Date and In Order

Your healthcare documents are an important start, but you should also review (or create) powers of attorney, a last will, and perhaps even a living trust. Remember that it’s never an inappropriate time to plan. Getting this in order will provide you and your loved ones peace of mind. And we’re here to support you, virtually now, as well. We can take care of you, and your family, fully online. Call us, we’re here.

 Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,

I’m dealing with working from home, managing my business and my team remotely, operating in shifts with my wife to take care of my children during the day, homeschool them, all while keeping a nervous eye on our stockpile of toilet paper. But perhaps my biggest challenge is feeling like my parents and in-laws are taking COVID-19 as seriously as I wish they would.

As of March 25th, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the United States was 54,453 cases across the United States with 737 confirmed deaths from the virus. And these numbers are still rising exponentially. 

When we first became aware of the novel coronavirus, there were several TV pundits and other authority figures saying that the virus was just another version of the flu. But in other parts of the world, we’ve seen COVID-19 overwhelm healthcare systems in a way the flu virus just hasn’t.

It seems, though, that many people of the older generation may still not be taking this seriously. And hey, they are the most battle tested of all of us. They’ve seen it all and survived it all and aren’t generally the types to give in to panic and stress. 

That said, they are also among the most vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. And even with the stay at home order in place, I still feel like my parents are taking too many unnecessary risks. Here’s how I’m trying to express my concerns to them:

  1. Listening to them and determining the worries they have.
    I want to know what they have heard, what they are frustrated about, and what they are skeptical about. Everyone is frustrated with lines at the grocery store, toilet paper hoarding, and the hysteria of the crowds around them. I’m sure my parents do not want to feel like they are one of “those people.” I know I don’t. So I’m just trying to assure them that taking some precautions, especially staying home, is completely reasonable and can be done in a non-panicked way. I’m also trying to support them to make alternative arrangements during this time so they don’t have to go out.
  2. Emphasizing the risk in practical terms.
    I’m sharing articles and news with them that state the facts, soberly, like this one. My parents are bright and already have a good understanding about how viruses spread in general and they already know the basics of how important it is for them to wash their hands. But I want to ensure that is at the top of mind for them every day right now.
  3. Showing them I’m taking it seriously.
    I’m not getting together with my parents unless absolutely necessary, and when I do, I’m wearing a mask and keeping my distance as much as possible. I also shared the video created by Max Brooks, son of legendary comedian Mel Brooks, with them. Max created a PSA to convince younger people to be cognizant of how they might spread the virus to people who are the most vulnerable to it. It presents the situation in a succinct, somewhat lighthearted way. 

If you’re experiencing something similar with your loved ones, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Together, we can get through this. Let’s make sure our parents come through this with us.

Be well and stay safe.

Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,