Are you 65 or older? Do you have continuing medical issues? Do you have diabetes? Autoimmune issues?
These--and other issues--make you at high risk for contracting COVID-19 and not surviving the ordeal. We wish this on no one but in the off chance that this happens, how many of us are prepared? Do we have our affairs in order? Do our loved ones know what to do?
If your medical provider asks your friends, relatives or partner how you want to be treated if you're no longer able to speak for yourself, who has the legal authority to speak on your behalf?
Who knows where your financial accounts are held, whether you have life insurance or even the security codes for your home?
None of us want to think about such thing because we all plan to live forever.
Maybe now is the time to put away those outdated concepts and make the effort to prepare--just in case.
CORONAVIRUS: BAY AREA HELP TO GET YOUR WILL AND OTHER AFFAIRS IN ORDER
April 29, 2020
REPRINTED FROM THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
A sobering part of the coronavirus pandemic means thinking about the unthinkable.
While it was easy to put estate planning off when our days were filled with work, school and social obligations, the rapid spread of the coronavirus has changed that. Making sure your affairs are in order while staying home and flattening the curve is not only important for those around you, but a good way to cope with anxiety in a time of uncertainty.
Here are five steps you can take to get your affairs in order.
MAKE A WILL
This is a way to ensure that after your death your assets go to the people you designate. While more complicated financial situations might require consulting a lawyer, in most cases you can prepare a simple will using an online service. Most take less than an hour to complete with a little preparation.
Create an inventory of your possessions; note who gets what; determine how to pay debts; designate an executor; and if you have young children, name a guardian.
California law does not require a will to be notarized, but you must sign it in front of two witnesses (neither should be a beneficiary). Make sure to use proper physical distancing and safety protocols as outlined by health officials.
You also have the option of leaving a so-called holographic will in California. This is a legally binding document handwritten, signed and dated by the person leaving the will. No witnesses are required.
If you already have a will in place, use this time to review it and make any amendments.
ASSIGN POWERS OF ATTORNEY
These forms allow a designated person to act in your place, making medical and legal decisions, if you become incapacitated.
In California, the Probate Code offers an official form for both a financial power of attorney document and health care power of attorney document, under sections 4401 and 4701, respectively.
The state requires these forms to be notarized. Notaries in California are not prohibited from performing during a shelter-in-place order, as long as they follow the guidance of health professionals. While remote online notarization are currently not permitted in California, citizens who wish to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that provides remote online notarization, in accordance with California Civil Code 1189(b).
PREPARE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE
An advance directive helps family and friends take over medical decisions if you are incapacitated. The most important decision is choosing a designated surrogate who will act as your health care representative.
There are several free online resources that will take you through a simple step-by-step process of completing this form, including the AARP and the website Prepare.
A valid written directive does not require an attorney but must have a signature and date and be witnessed or notarized. An informal written document such as a letter or a values statement can be used to guide treatment options as well.
Keep in mind, the coronavirus outbreak has caused shortages of critical medical equipment, including ventilators, and not all of your directives may be considered in a time of crisis.
SECURE YOUR DOCUMENTS
Get your papers in order. Keep a copy of your will, trust, birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards, insurance papers, medical information, most recent tax return, receipts for high-ticket items and other important documents in a fireproof box.
You should also scan and save them to a flash drive, or in the cloud. Though, if digitizing personal documents, consider using encryption or password protection to secure the information.
For a list of vital documents: http://bit.ly/2zqvZDy
ASSIGN CUSTODY OF YOUR DIGITAL ASSETS
With your paperwork safeguarded, you will also want to consider assigning custody of your digital accounts.
There are several password managers, such as Lastpass and 1Password, that will store logins and other secure information, including individual notes for each account. You can designate a family member or friend to be the point of access in case of emergency or death.
In addition to handing off your online passwords, make sure to create a document that includes access to information that doesn’t require a website login, such as your computer passwords, phone and ATM PIN numbers, fireproof safe combinations, etc.
Some other things to consider: Are there key contacts at work who need to be notified? How do you pay the bills and when? Are there retirement accounts, insurance policies, or any other emergency files your loved ones need to know about?
Get everything organized so it can be found easily.
Aidin Vaziri is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Email: [email protected]
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