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Idaho Estate Planning Six Legal Documents to Have During The Pandemic

By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

This article was written at the beginning of July 2020. At this particular time, the United States is experiencing a surge of individuals who have tested positive for the Coronavirus. There are also a record setting number of people who have passed away as result of this virus.

The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11, 2020. When this happened, there was an obvious panic throughout the entire world. Businesses shut down, and people began taking extra care when doing their normal life activities. However, because it’s now been nearly four months since the pandemic was declared many people have grown tired of limited contact with others. People want life to return to normal.

However, the reality is that things may never return to what they were like before. We may be living in a new normal. It’s important to understand this because it may have an impact on the things you do to plan for how you will take care of yourself while you are alive; the possible end of life instructions you would like to give to your healthcare providers for yourself; and in how you would like to distribute your money, property, and other assets to your family and loved ones when you pass away.

The purpose of this article is to provide a brief description of the six legal documents that you should complete during this pandemic to make sure that you, your family members and loved ones are protected.

If you are ready to get started but don’t know how to begin, we encourage you to download our Estate Planning Questionnaire and then schedule a free 30-minute consultation with us so we can help you understand what your estate planning options are, and how these options can be used to help you and your family.

1. Authorization for Childcare and/or Guardianship

If you are a parent the first and most important legal documents that you should consider completing would be those that give authorization for someone else to provide childcare for your young children if you are unable to do this yourself. If you are temporarily incapacitated because of the virus or because of some other reason, you can provide a limited authorization for childcare. Through this document you can name a family member, or a close friend who has immediate decision-making ability for your children.

For longer-term care needs, we suggest that you complete a guardianship nomination. This is usually done in your estate planning documents. This gives you the ability to name an individual or couple who can be appointed by the court as the legal guardian of your children if you were to die.

If you do not have these documents in place, and there is an emergency where you cannot make decisions for your children, the ball would require the court to appoint someone who has this legal Authority. The problem with this is that it opens the door for family members or friends who you would not choose to do this to seek to be appointed by the court. By doing these documents you are in complete control of the people who will care directly for your children.

2. Durable Power of Attorney

The next most important thing you should consider is how you will care for yourself if you lose the ability to do this. In other words, if you are in a coma, or if you have Alzheimer’s, or you suffer a stroke or some other injury or illness that incapacitates you, but you are alive, you need someone who can take care of your finances and property the same way that you would for yourself.

This is accomplished through your durable power of attorney. In this document you can name an individual who you are granting this authority to. If this person is unable or unwilling to do it you can name a successor or several successors who can men do this for you.

If you do not have a power of attorney in place, and you become incapacitated, then your family will be required to complete a guardianship proceeding for you. This is an in-court process that takes time, and can be fairly expensive, especially if your family don’t agree on who should be appointed as your legal guardian. By completing a durable power of attorney, you get to name the person you want to have do this, and you have no additional expense or the potential for family fights.

3. Power of Attorney for Health Care

Similarly, you will also need to complete a separate durable power of attorney for health care. The previous power of attorney is the global power that covers absolutely every aspect of your life except Healthcare. The health care power-of-attorney focuses solely on Healthcare.

The person that you appoint with this power of attorney has the ability to help you and/or to individually make health care decisions on your behalf. In other words, this person gets to decide what medicines you take, what doctors you see, and what medical procedures you might receive. Again, if you do not have this document and you were in need of this type of care, then a guardianship proceeding will be required in order for the court to appoint and grant authority to somebody to make these decisions for you.

4. Living Will

The next part of your estate planning that you should have completed during this pandemic is your end-of-life instructions. This is more particularly true if you were to be infected with the Coronavirus. Your living will gives you the ability to provide specific instructions to your doctors and other healthcare providers about what you do want and what you do not want them to do. These instructions will be followed if you are unable to communicate with your healthcare providers and you are in a terminal condition.

You can leave a variety of instructions. You can tell your healthcare providers that if this is your circumstance you want them simply to pull the plug that allow you to die normally and naturally. Additionally, you have the ability to provide specific instructions related to the coronavirus and its treatment.

5. Last Will and Testament

Your last will and testament is the next document in your estate plan that is also vitally important. This document only becomes valid after you have died. Its purpose is to give you the ability to provide specific instructions on who you want to distribute your money, property, and other assets to after you die.

If you do not have a written last will and testament that Idaho is laws of intestacy will kick in and it will determine who will receive your estate after you die. The problem with this is that it usually does not leave the estate with the people or in the amounts that you would have chosen yourself.

6. Beneficiary Designations on Accounts

The final part of your estate plan that you should complete would be your beneficiary designations on all your accounts. This would include your life insurance, your 401k account, your IRA accounts, your annuity accounts, any brokerage or investment account you may have, as well as you are bank accounts. By doing this, you have provided instructions as part of your contract with a third party that is administering these things for you.

Yes, the coronavirus has changed the way we lived. However, a well thought-out estate plan can still provide the protections you and your loved ones should have while you are alive. Additionally, it gives you the ability to provide specific instructions on what your wishes and intentions are both at your desk, and after you have died.

Please download our free Estate Planning Questionnaire and schedule your free 30-minute consultation so that we can begin helping you get your estate planning done now. We have helped thousands of clients complete this process and we are confident that we can help you too!

Enlist an Idaho Estate Planning Attorney to Help You

Our team of Idaho lawyers can help you with any of your estate planning or probate needs. Whether you are seeking to create or review an estate plan for yourself or would like to help a loved one, we are available to discuss your options and answer your questions at an initial free 30-minute consultation. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation. You can also email us directly at lane@racineolson.com or stop by our office at 201 East Center Street, Pocatello, Idaho 83201. We will answer your questions and help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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