This is Part 2 of the Top Ten Mistakes blog series. Click here to catch up on Part 1.
In our last blog, we discussed the first four mistakes you can make: Procrastination, assuming wills or trusts avoid probate, leaving assets to a child or special needs beneficiary (directly), and assuming trusts take away beneficiary control. Today we’ll look at the next three.
Mistake #5: Not Organizing Your Information During the Pandemic
Have you organized all your financial records, deeds, tax information, insurance information, and estate planning documents in one secure place or central location? Does your family know where that is? Do they know what medications you take or who your doctors are? How about your lawyers, accountants, or financial planners? These are all things you might want to consider at any time, but they are especially critical now during this pandemic when things can change quickly.
If your financial information and records are not organized before death or disability (by you, the person who knows where everything is), your loved ones can be left with a morbid scavenger hunt trying to find and recreate financial information and records during an emotionally difficult time. This may keep them from being able to make timely, important financial decisions. Your family will not be able to handle your affairs, take care of you, or advocate on your behalf during the pandemic if they can’t find your information or do not have legal authority to do so.
The solution to this mistake is to work with an estate planning attorney who has an ongoing care program. Here at Family Estate Planning Law Group, our initial intake process helps you to identify all your assets as well as the team of professionals that you work with. We then track any changes because it doesn’t matter what you own today; it matters what you own when you die or become incapacitated.
In addition to working with an attorney with a client care program, we also suggest having a Family Care MeetingTM where you invite your caregivers (children) and your professionals (financial planners, CPAs, etc.) to discuss your plan so everyone understands how it will work.
Finally, we love the “Grab and Go” Kit suggested by Healthassist which you can check out here. It’s a list of things you might want to have readily available in case you get suddenly ill and have to go to the hospital during this pandemic.
Mistake #6: No Health Care Directive of HIPAA Release
Do you have a health care proxy and does it comply with HIPAA to allow your family to receive medical records in the event of your incapacity? Without a health care proxy and HIPAA release, physicians and medical facilities will not be able to release medical records to your loved ones, even during emergencies. More recent privacy laws require changes to old health care proxies and/or the preparation of a HIPAA release in order to allow spouses or family members the ability to obtain medical records.
The solution to this mistake is simple: create (or update) a health care proxy and HIPAA release. Additionally, make sure you give a digital copy of it to your doctors now, so no one is scrambling to get it when decisions need to be made. We also suggest reviewing what treatment you would want during the COVID-19 crisis.
Mistake #7: Not Telling Your Family Anything Now
Many people incorrectly assume “My family doesn’t need to know anything now. They will find out when they need to.” However, in our experience, a lack of communication can result in confusion about your wishes, which typically leads to misunderstandings, hard feelings, and sometimes broken relationships.
The first time most families hear about an estate plan is after a family member has died. Often, they are required to make timely decisions that affect income and estate tax liabilities or asset protection. Families and loved ones are typically in the grieving process and ill-equipped to learn and understand more about the estate planning process in general and your plan in particular. It’s important to remember that you will not be there to implement your own plan.
The solution to this is to have a Family Care MeetingTM now. Have a meeting with you, your loved ones, your trustees, and other fiduciaries and professionals to tell them about your estate plan. You don’t have to disclose your assets; you can just give them the general overview. This is also a good time to discuss how you would want to be taken care of during an emergency like the current pandemic.
Here at Family Estate Planning Law Group, we believe that preparation is key. We want to help you and your loved ones experience peace of mind during this challenging season by helping you avoid some of these estate planning mistakes. We believe that Together, We Plan for Life® Stay tuned for our next blog, which will address the final three estate planning mistakes and how to avoid them! To learn more about this, other estate planning topics, and our ongoing client care program, visit our website, explore our blog, and schedule your complimentary consultation today!