To all front-line and “essential” workers: Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your hard work—day in and day out (and often evenings, nights, and weekends). You tirelessly give of yourself to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Whether you are caring for them in a hospital, therapy room, or patient's home, you are there to protect and help the patient gain a better tomorrow.
However, one important question remains. What have you done to prepare for your own care? In the past several weeks, I have worked with many nurses and doctors who are working so tirelessly to help save the lives of other people. The one thing that those nurses and doctors had overlooked: their own estate plans! Working together, we can craft the best possible estate planning prescription that will protect you today, tomorrow, and well into the future using the best legal tools available. Here is a brief summary of some of the documents you should consider.
A revocable living trust is an excellent way to manage and protect your money and property. Contrary to what some may think, you don't need to have lots of money and property to benefit from a trust. In Illinois, a deceased individual's estate must be probated if their assets totaled $100,000.00 or more!
The two major players involved in a trust are the trustee and the beneficiary. During your lifetime, as long as you are able and choose to do so, you can act as the trustee and can control all money and property in the trust. However, when you are managing the money and property, you are now doing so as the trustee and not as the individual owner. In addition to serving as the initial trustee, you are also the beneficiary. This means that, although you have transferred your money and property into the name of your trust, you are still the one receiving the benefits of that money and property.
In the event you are unable to act (i.e., you become incapacitated) or pass away, the individual you have named as your successor trustee will step in and manage the money and property according to the instructions you have included in the written trust agreement. Even if you are still alive when the successor takes over, it will be the successor trustee's responsibility to manage and use the money and property for your benefit. Then, upon your passing, the successor trustee is required to hold or distribute the money and property in the trust according to the instructions in the trust instrument. This transition of trusteeship between you and your successor trustee happens without court involvement, making it quick and private.
A financial power of attorney allows the trusted person you choose (your “agent”) to handle your financial matters on your behalf. The agent can handle a wide variety of transactions from signing checks to opening a bank account to filing your taxes to changing your mailing address, depending upon the authority you grant that individual in the power of attorney. This can be a helpful tool if you are incapacitated, bedridden, or just unavailable to engage in the necessary transaction. The beauty of this document is that you can customize it so that you will have the assistance you need, when you need it, based on your individual situation and wishes.
As you are probably well aware, a health care power of attorney allows you to name a trusted individual to communicate your medical wishes in the event you are unable to do so. It is important that you choose someone you trust because you will not be able to oversee your agent's decisions. It is equally important that you convey your wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures to this individual clearly. This can be accomplished through the use of a living will or advanced directive.
Additionally, you can execute a HIPAA authorization in the event you would like other trusted individuals to have access to your medical information (i.e., to get a status update on your condition or obtain test results for you) but do not want them to have the ability to make decisions. In a stressful situation, the dissemination of reliable information straight from the health care provider can be a way to ease tensions and allow everyone to process what is going on with a level head.
Give Us a Call
We understand that you are busy and your time is valuable. To better assist our clients under the current stay-at-home order, we are available to meet by telephone or video conference. We have also modified our procedures for the execution of estate planning documents, thereby eliminating the need for you to wait several months in order to come into our office to sign the documents. During the stay-at-home order, the best way to contact O'Connor Law Offices is via telephone (708-460-8888) or via email ( [email protected] ). You are not alone! We are all in this together.
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