Getting Your Legal Affairs in Order in a CoVid World
The Coronavirus has turned our entire world upside-down. Suddenly, we are faced with constant news reports about people who’ve contracted CoVid-19 and are in critical condition, or worse, have suddenly passed away. With everyone’s life at stake, it has caused us to shift our priorities to what’s most important: our loved ones and our health.
Five Ways to Protect Your Health & Your Loved Ones During the Pandemic
Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A Durable, Illinois Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a legal document that allows you to name trusted loved one to manage your medical decisions if you were unable to communicate decisions on your own. If that person was not able to serve as your Agent with Power of Attorney for Healthcare, you can name other loved ones as successors to step in (second choice, third choice, etc.) Medical decisions include everything from selecting medical treatment or surgeries on your behalf to medications and facilities.
A Living Will is a must. It works alone or in conjunction with a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
Don’t confuse a living will with a Do-Not-Rescusictate Order. A DNR is a statement saying if you pass away, you do not want medical staff to attempt to revive you. A living will, however, is a statement about your wishes BEFORE you pass away. It is your declaration that, if you have been diagnosed with a termination condition (an incurable, irreversible condition) and your attending physician has determined that your death is imminent, that you do not wish to have death-delaying procedures.
If you were not able to communicate your decisions and you did not have an agent with Power of Attorney for Healthcare, then the physician could rely on your living will. If you did have an agent with Power of Attorney for Healthcare and you were not able to communicate your decisions, then your agent (under the power of attorney for healthcare) could rely on your living will and take it into consideration when making deicisions on your behalf.
A Last Will and Testament directs who should inherit everything you own when you pass away (except for assets owned in a trust, or jointly owned where there is a joint survivor, or assets with a beneficiary designation, etc.). It allows you to choose who will carry out the terms of the will after you pass away and act as Executor. It also directs your Executor to pay final death expenses and can dicuss whether or not you wish to be cremated or buried. You may choose to give specific gifts of money or heirlooms to specific loved ones.
Without a Will, the State “writes one for you.” The State of Illinois “guesses” who you would want to inherit from you, and how much. Most people want to be able to choose which loved ones will inherit what they own and who should be in charge when they pass away.
For blended families, this is especially important, since the State says a married person with children allows the spouse to take 50% and the children to share the remaining 50%.
For unmarried persons, the State of Illinois does not recognize common law marriage. That means your significant other will not inhrerit from you unless you direct this in a last will.
For foster children or blended families where the parent has not legally adopted the child, that child will not inherit from you unless you name them in your will.
Don’t let the State choose who inherits from you.
Beneficiary Designations and Transfer on Death (or Pay on Death) Assets
Many accounts which have thousands of dollars in value offer a beneficiary designation form for you to fill out, stating who you want to receive those funds upon your death. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, CDs, credit union accounts, and other securities offer a beneficiary designation form for you to complete.
Take 5 minutes and check who you’ve named. It costs nothing to update this form. And it’s critically important! Most people can’t remember who they’ve named as a first and second choice. It could mean the difference between your children receiving the funds immediately after your death so they can pay their bills (and the funeral) or them spending months in Probate Court waiting to receive anything.
A Living Trust
A Living Trust can relieve a myriad of potential problems, such as your children inheriting everything as soon as they turn age 18 if both parents are deceased. It can also avoid your loved ones from having to go to Probate Court to collect and distribute assets to those entitled to inherit. Probate Court in Illinois is a minimum of 6 months to allow for creditors to make claims, and will now be delayed even longer as Courts are closed (and will be behind schedule when they reopen) from the Illinois Shelter-in-Place order.
A living trust allows you to manage what you own while you are living and competent and to name a loved one as a successor to manage your finances if you became disabled or passed away.
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