We are still in the middle of the global coronavirus pandemic. In the United States, over 118,000 people have died from COVID-19. Many people in Kentucky and around the country have been considering their own mortality. It is always wise for people of all ages to take time to engage in estate planning. If you are reaching retirement age, it is even more important to get your estate planning ducks in a row.
At CommonWealth Elder Law, we have helped many clients engage in estate planning. Every Kentucky resident should have the following five estate planning documents in their estate plan. Whatever your situation or level of income, obtaining the following legal documents is extremely beneficial. Planning ahead will give you greater privacy, control, and an opportunity to pass on more of your estate to your loved ones or the charities of your choice. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person to act on behalf of another person. Every adult who is over the age of 18 needs to have a durable power of attorney. In fact, a durable power of attorney is one of the most important estate planning documents you can have. Every adult should have a durable power of attorney. Not even your spouse will have the authority to make all critical decisions for you if you become incapacitated without this legal designation in place.
By appointing someone as your durable power of attorney, you will ensure that your financial and business issues will be taken care of correctly. For example, if you have a retirement account or IRA, your spouse will not be able to withdraw money from the account or deposit money unless you give your spouse legal authority to do so. If you become incapacitated, your spouse will not be able to give you written permission to access certain financial information and documents. In an emergency, your spouse might need to access funds right away.
Advance Medical Directives
An advance medical directive allows you to communicate your wishes for medical decisions if you are unconscious or unable to communicate your wishes due to being incapacitated. By completing an advance directive, you will be able to record your wishes concerning medical treatment. Your advance directive will help your family understand what you would like to happen if you become unable to make your own medical decisions.
For example, if you are in a coma and unable to communicate your own decisions and you have an advance directive that appoints your sisters your agent, doctors will go to your sister to see what to do when important medical decisions come up. For those who do not have an advance medical directive, a disagreement could occur between your family members. In some cases, one of your family members will need to go to a Kentucky court to seek guardianship over you to make your necessary medical decisions.
We have had clients come to us before and ask if their loved one who is in a coma or incapacitated can still make an advance directive. Frustratingly, the answer is no. You need to create an advance directive before you become incapacitated, while you are still competent and able to make decisions. An advance medical directive is helpful because if you do not have one in place, doctors will need to ask the following people to make decisions on your behalf:
- Your guardian, if a Kentucky court has appointed one
- Your spouse
- Your adult child
- Your parents
- Your nearest living relative
A Last Will and Testament, also called simply a “will” is a legal document. In writing your will, you will state your wishes for your property and where you would like your minor children to go if you pass away. You will also be able to name an executor or personal representative who will be in charge of settling your affairs after you pass away. The best way to go about creating a will is to work with an experienced Kentucky attorney who will make sure that your will meets all of the legal requirements in Kentucky.
You will need to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind at the time you create your will. This means you are aware of your actions while you are creating a will. Even if you have challenges with lucidity, if you are lucid at the moment you sign your will, you will meet the requirement. You will also need to ensure that your will is properly notarized. You must sign an affidavit along with a witness before a notary public.
When you create a living will, you will be able to leave instructions regarding your medical care if you become incapacitated. The Kentucky Living Will Directive Act of 1994 ensures that citizens have the right to make decisions regarding their medical care, including the right to refuse or accept treatment. Anybody in Kentucky who is lucid and over the age of 18 can create a Living Will. a Living Will also allows you do do the following:
- Designate a Healthcare Surrogate
- Request or refuse life-prolonging treatment
- Request or refuse and artificial hydration or feeding tube
- Express whether or not you would like to be an organ donor
More people are creating living trusts as part of their estate plans. By creating a living trust, you can help ensure that you will be able to pass on your estate to your heirs. Setting up a living trust in Kentucky makes sense, especially because you will be able to avoid probate. The probate process is lengthy and costly in Kentucky. If you have a large estate, you will save significant money for your loved ones by having your estate avoid probate. You will need to identify what assets should and should not go into your trust. Some assets cannot go into a trust. You will also need to choose which type of trust will work best for your goals.
Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Lawyers Today
During these uncertain times, estate planning is even more important. Contact CommonWealth Elder Law as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.