If there’s one thing that has been true about 2020, it’s that things are changing rapidly. Whether it’s breaking news updates every day about the Coronavirus pandemic or tragic news about our favorite actors dying (#WakandaForever), this has been a tough year for us all.
So how do we cope? When it comes to constant change and a stressful environment, you can only affect what is under your control. In this article, we’ll talk about ways to cope with life changes by using the legal system to your advantage.
If you don’t recognize the term “living will,” you might recognize this document as an “advance directive.” There’s no denying that the Coronavirus pandemic is here, perhaps to stay. And there’s also no denying that it is causing people to become sick (from mild symptoms to ventilation required), sometimes fatally. The numbers increase every day.
What doesn’t change is that you need to be prepared if you fall ill. A living will is a legally-enforceable, written document that lays out your wishes in the event that you are hospitalized and unable to communicate. These wishes include medical treatments that you do or don’t want, whether you want to be kept alive under any circumstances, and organ donation and pain management preferences.
These are all highly personal and contingent on your values and lifestyle. That’s why it is important to have your requests written; that way, they will be honored.
Power of Attorney
Along the same lines of a living will is a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a trusted individual who you appoint to manage your financial and/or medical affairs in the event that you are unable to do so yourself (incapacitation, illness, cognitive decline, etc.). By appointing a trustworthy power of attorney, you know that you are in good hands. And, if the power of attorney performs poorly, there are legal safeguards in place to remove him or her from the position.
Estate planning works on both sides of the veil, so to speak. It allows you to control how your assets are distributed after you die, as well as how to protect them while you are alive. By setting up trusts (whether inter vivos or testamentary), you can ensure that your assets are safeguarded against potential lawsuits or challenges.
You can protect your assets so that your heirs get the most out of your estate after you die. In addition to those benefits, an estate planning attorney can also help you minimize tax obligations on your estate post-mortem.
Small Business Planning
Americans are very entrepreneurial, and a pandemic has not changed that cultural fact. Several businesses that were started during or immediately after economic collapse, recession, or serious global catastrophes include: General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Burger King, Microsoft, Uber, Airbnb, and many more.
If you already have a business, then you know how precarious the times are. Having a business succession plan in the event of your death will protect what you have worked so hard for. If you’re just starting a new business, you should take protective steps as well. This includes purchasing top-notch insurance.
Taking Care of the Kids
Kids are resilient, but there is no denying that they, too, have gone through major changes in the past year. Kids are unable to go back to school, and they often see their in-person social lives shrink (if not disappear entirely). Though there is not much you can do about that, there are legal ways to take care of your kids’ future.
If your kids are under the age of eighteen and something happens to you, who will get them? Estate planning allows you to set up guardianship papers, putting your kids’ lives into the hands of trusted adults. Contact your proposed guardian before you appoint them into the position. Setting up guardianship is a “just in case” safeguard that, while unpleasant to think about, is still a must-do.
Pandemic or not, colleges will still exist in the future, and they will still likely be expensive. The IRS allows you to set up a 529 tax plan, which is a tax-advantaged program that allows you to save up for your kid’s college education. Each state is different, and every state has its own requirements, rules, and regulations for setting up such a plan. Contact an attorney to discuss your options.
Dealing with change can be scary and intimidating, particularly if you are not used to it. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the way we deal with these “winds of change.” Talk to an estate planning attorney to see how these legal safeguards can give you peace of mind.