Did you know that, in 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives designated the third week of October as “National Estate Planning Awareness Week” in order to encourage American adults to create estate plans? Estate planning involves putting legal protections in place to help secure a future you want for yourself and your loved ones. These protections can bring peace of mind in a world of uncertainties. This may be more true than ever in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Every estate plan should include incapacity planning and after death planning. Incapacity planning allows for things like having someone you have selected assist you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The most important tools for incapacity planning may include:

1. A Durable Power of Attorney. A durable power of attorney allows an agent you appoint to manage your financial affairs and other specified matters. The fact that it is durable means the power will survive even in the event that you become incapacitated.

2. Health Care Planning Tools. Different individuals have different needs. You and your estate planning attorney can choose health care planning tools that can allow you to designate a selected individual to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.

3. Living Will. A living will allows you to indicate what kinds of end-of-life care you do and do not want should you be incapacitated and in a terminal medical situation.

The last will and testament may be the most common legal document for estate planning. It becomes effective after you have passed away. It directs the distribution of your property at the time of your death. It also allows you to appoint a personal representative to oversee the distribution of your assets. It allows you to appoint a guardian to take care of your minor children. In the absence of a will, a court may need to decide who should oversee the distribution of your assets, and who will take care of your children. State intestate laws may dictate how your assets are distributed.

By contrast, a revocable trust is a tool that can be used both for incapacity planning and for your estate after you pass away. This can be a great tool for maintaining privacy, and ensuring that your wishes are followed both during end-of-life and after you pass.

Our office can guide a family through their estate planning options. Please contact our office today to schedule a meeting with attorney Alan Hougum.