As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the nation, some are preparing for the worst-case scenario. As AARP reports, attorneys are seeing an uptick in business as Americans rush to prepare estate planning documents—and it’s easy to see why. Fewer than a third of adults have a will or other necessary estate planning documents, according to a recent survey from Caring.com. If you’re part of the majority that does not—and pass away unexpectedly—it could create problems for your family. Here are some important estate planning moves to consider right now.
Last will and testament
Your last will and testament outlines which individuals or charities may receive your assets after your death. While the best option is to work with a local estate planning attorney, you might also consider an affordable online service like Thoughtful Wills. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure the document is legally binding per your state’s requirements.
Advance health care directive
Another key document is your advance health care directive—aka your patient advocate designation, or healthcare proxy. This document names an individual who may make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to. It may also outline your wishes in terms of end-of-life care.
You can download your state’s advance directive through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, but if you have any state-specific questions, contact a local attorney for guidance.
Financial power of attorney
You should also have a financial power of attorney, which allows someone else to manage your finances while you’re still alive. You can download the paperwork through your state’s website or hire an attorney to create them for you.
Double-check your beneficiaries
Your retirement, life insurance, checking and savings accounts should each designate a named beneficiary—the person, people, trust or charity that will receive the balance upon your death. As Kiplinger reports, the exact wording will determine where your money goes—so don’t leave it to chance. Take a few minutes to double-check how your beneficiaries are outlined.
According to NordPass, the average person has 70-80 passwords. If you pass away unexpectedly, it may be difficult for a loved one to figure out these passwords and get access to your online accounts. You should rely on a password manager rather than a hand-written list to make sure your digital records can be accessed by your survivors. Our list of the best digital password managers is here.
In addition to everything listed above, create a document that outlines anything else your loved ones should know. For example, you may want to include a plan for your pets—including their health needs and preferred veterinarian. You may also jot down your wishes for your funeral, wake or burial. It may also be handy to include information about your home, including and planned or necessary repairs. This is your chance to share anything and everything that may help prevent additional stress and uncertainty for your loved ones.