Right now, huge numbers of people are coming face to face with their own mortality and realizing they need to plan for the worst. This goes not just for those in the “senior” category, but for all of us, no matter our age. We are facing the reality of our mortality and many of us are doing it courageously by taking this as an opportunity to learn what we need to do for the people we love.
One of my family friends in his late 20s was diagnosed with COVID-19. He works at a grocery store and it is possible that he caught it at work. When he was diagnosed, he was told to self-isolate at home and to call 911 if he needed help. He experienced excruciating pain, but luckily he did not require hospitalization. But, not everyone is so lucky.
Recently I heard a tragic story from a colleague whose client recently lost her fiancé to COVID-19. Because she was not listed on her fiancé’s health directive and HIPAA waiver, she could not get anyone to update her on his condition once he entered the hospital.
Naturally, she did not give up trying to get in touch, and eventually, someone told her that he was not in the ICU anymore. She was enormously relieved, but when she had not heard anything else by the next day, she called again for news. Finally, after being transferred several times, she learned that the reason her fiancé was not in the ICU was because he was in the morgue. He passed away the day before and no one had told her. Heartbreaking.
Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. But sometimes the worst does happen, and if it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all.
Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets you will leave behind if you become sick or die?
Without a doubt, you would want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital and kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You would also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death, or save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.
The Things You Can Do Yourself
First of all, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the truth is, we will all die. It is better to face that with those that we love, and when the time comes, we will be as ready as we can be.
Create an Inventory of What Matters
A couple of weeks ago, I told you why it was important to have an inventory of your assets and other essential information to ensure your loved ones know what you have, where it is, and how to access it if something happens to you.
This is something that you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. It is a great resource to leave for your loved ones, so they know where to find everything that is important to you, and to them, if something happens to you.
If you need help with this, I have created a free workbook to get you started. Just send me a request and I can email one to you.
Note that your inventory will not handle the following:
● A guarantee that your loved ones will not have to go to court;
● Directing your assets to anyone other than your “next of kin” according to Hawaii law or your state's law;
● Ensuring health care decisions are made for you, as you want (it is not a Will or a Health Care Directive);
● Making sure your unmarried partner can stay living in your house.
Update Your Health Care Directive
This is extra important if you want your loved ones to avoid the tragic situation that my colleague’s client found herself in. Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these documents.
An Advance Health Care Directive has three parts:
● The Living Will/ Medical Directive, which states how you want decisions to be made for you.
● The Medical Power of Attorney, which states who should make these decisions if you cannot make them yourself.
● A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.
You can prepare this document yourself or a lawyer can help you create a comprehensive one.
Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids
A very important thing for all parents of minor children to do is name legal guardians for your children. Think about what would happen to them right now if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future. We have a website where you can name legal guardians for your kids, at no charge here: www.protectmykeiki.com
What You Should Get A Lawyer’s Help With
The goal in setting up your estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of the court process and out of conflict. To do that, you have to keep your estate plan up to date and ensure you have made the right decisions in the estate planning process.
Under the following circumstances, you should not just do planning yourself, but instead have a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which we can look at your family dynamics, your assets, and the law so you can decide what you really do need for the people you love:
● If you have assets, beyond what you can physically see and touch, and those assets are worth more than $100k;
● If you live with your unmarried partner in a house that one of you owns and the other doesn't (or even if you own it together);
● If you have minor children and your named guardians do not live locally to you;
● If you are in a second (or more) marriage;
● If you have complex family dynamics;
● If you have a business you want to continue after you are gone;
● If you know for sure you would want to keep your family out of court no matter what.
All of our Family Wealth Planning Sessions are happening virtually these days, and we can make the whole process quite easy and affordable for you and the people you love. Give us a call to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session, if you are ready to face your mortality courageously.
This article is a service of the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC, an estate planning law firm in Honolulu, Hawaii. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, ™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by contacting our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, I am not your lawyer unless you have paid me for legal advice and we have a signed agreement. Therefore, all information on this website is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should contact an attorney trained to work with families on estate planning matters regarding your specific situation. Use of and access to this website or any of the email links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between the Law Office of Keoni Souza, LLC and any users or any other party.