Wills, trusts, health care directives, powers of attorney, and legal guardian nominations are on many of our hearts and minds as COVID-19 compels us to face our own fragility and mortality.

It’s not as if we didn’t already know we are all mortal, but within our current reality, that mortality becomes all the more real. And one way to feel some control over what’s happening out there is to make sure we all have our legal affairs in order at home. That way, if something does happen to us, our families aren’t left with a big legal mess to clean up while they are grieving.

If you are trying to get your financial house in order right now, you may be just getting some basic documents in place. You may even be doing it yourself.

If that’s the case, it’s very important for you to know that the cost of a failed plan can be very high for the people you love. Plus, if your documents are not properly signed, they will not work—period. End of story. And if your documents don’t work, your family could be stuck in court or conflict, which is probably the exact thing you want to avoid by handling your estate planning now.

There are many ways plans fail, but one of the worst ways we see is when someone starts a plan and doesn’t get it signed properly. You do not want this to happen to your family, trust me. If you care enough about estate planning, you will want to make sure your plan will work when your family needs it.

That means you need to make sure your legal documents are actually signed and signed in the right way. Some legal documents require two witnesses, and some require notarization; however, in today’s social-distancing reality, these signatures could be difficult to come by. Some states have allowed remote notarization, California for some reason, has not.

While we understand you likely have a desire to get documents in place now, we also believe there is going to be a significant increase in conflict and litigation because of DIY estate planning documents for the future. Don’t let that happen to the people you love.

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

If you were to suddenly die today, would your loved ones know how to quickly find your estate planning documents? Would they know how to access all your financial accounts? How about your insurance policies? What about your login and password info to all of your digital assets?

One crucial part of estate planning that frequently gets overlooked is ensuring your loved ones can easily locate all your planning documents and other key assets upon your death or incapacity.

Don’t cause a logistical nightmare
Beyond burdening your loved ones with needless work and expense, if your planning documents, such as wills, prenuptial agreements, and insurance policies, can’t be located, it will be as if they never existed. The same goes for valuable assets like stocks, bank accounts, and other financial property no one knows about.

Given this, you should make sure someone you trust knows exactly where to find your planning documents – which should include an updated inventory of all your assets.

What to include in your planning binder or file
A little pre-planning and organization now can make things easier on your loved ones later.  Ensure you have updated copies (or the originals) of the following documents in one, easily accessible location:

  • An inventory of all your assets and their location
  • An advance healthcare directive
  • A will
  • Your living trust (if you have one)
  • Marriage or divorce certificate(s)
  • Instructions for your funeral and final disposition
  • Letters, cards, photos, and other treasured sentimentals
  • If you have minor children, a Child Protection Plan naming long and short-term guardians, along with detailed care instructions

Get your affairs in order—before it’s too late
Each family is unique, so this is just a baseline of what to include in your file. And because death or incapacity can happen to any of us at any time, don’t wait to get your affairs in order. Take steps now to give this gift to your family in the future.

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

estate planning 91024Power of attorney (POA) is a document that grants a specific person, called an agent, the authority to make important decisions on behalf of another person, who is called the principal.

There are many different types of powers of attorney. The scope of the authority the principal grants to the agent can be very broad in nature, or very specific. The power of attorney document specifies exactly what that authority looks like. For example, you could give someone the power to make decisions about your:

  •         Finances
  •         Healthcare
  •         Personal property
  •         Real estate
  •         Business
  •         Personal and family matters
  •         Lawsuits
  •         Insurances and annuities
  •         Taxes
  •         Government benefits

The agent can be granted authority to make just one type of decision, a mix, or all of them; it really boils down to the principal’s needs and wishes.

When it comes to powers of attorney, you have several options for granting others decision-making authority in your life. But keep in mind the power of attorney does not, by itself, adequately address all situations. For example, while giving power of attorney to someone can be useful for to those who want a specific person to be able to make certain decisions, it isn’t a substitute for a living will. If you want to imbue a person with more comprehensive health care authority in the event you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, consider executing a separate healthcare directive, which includes a living will, to meet that need.

The laws governing power of attorney vary from state to state and situation to situation. There is no “one size fits all” power of attorney document, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking a fill in the blank POA is going to properly protect you. Always seek the counsel of a trusted attorney before creating any legal document, to ensure you make informed and empowered decisions, both for yourself and the people you love.

Dedicated to your family’s health, wealth, and happiness,
Marc Garlett 91024