I think it’s safe to say that most Californians are tired of sheltering in place, or at least are tired of binge-watching TV. If you’re looking for a project that actually makes you feel productive, might I suggest you work on your estate plan? If that project hasn’t crossed your mind already, here are a few things you can check off your list, so you’ll be better prepared for whatever life throws at you:
- Create/Update Your Health Care Directive. During a health crisis or when facing a surgical procedure, this is possibly the most important document you can have. This document tells your doctors who they should talk to if you are unable to communicate with them. It also tells your agent (the person the doctors are talking to) what you want to happen, so your agent doesn’t have to make a decision for you. As an added bonus, you can put this together while sheltering in place – there are forms available online, and it can be validated by a notary or two witnesses (whichever is easier to round up). Note that if you go the two witness route, one of them has to be unrelated by blood or marriage, and can’t be inheriting anything from you. In a pinch, you can ask a neighbor to watch you sign over the back fence, then drop the form in their mailbox to get their signature. That has to be more interesting than chasing squirrels out of the yard, right?
- Create/Update Your Power of Attorney. This is likely the second most important document you can have during a health crisis. If you do end up in a hospital, you want someone to make sure your bills get paid, and this document names who that someone is. Like the health care directive, you can find this form online, and it can be validated by a notary or two witnesses.
- Create/Update Your Will/Trust. If you don’t already have a will and/or trust, this would be a good time to create them. At a minimum, you should have a will, which can also be validated by two witnesses. If you have young children or own a home, it would be a good idea to have a will and a trust. A trust is usually a bit more complex than the other documents, and it has to be notarized, so you may want to get some outside help to complete this step. Most attorneys are meeting clients remotely, and by now everyone should be reasonably familiar with videoconference software.
- Get your finances together. If someone has to pay your bills for you, it would be helpful if they knew what bills needed to be paid, and where the money to pay them would come from. Having a list of your bills and your bank accounts can also be helpful for your peace of mind. Just make sure you keep this list somewhere where casual visitors won’t stumble across it.
- Check how the title to your house is held. One of the most common problems an executor/trustee has to deal with is that the house was never placed into the trust – or the house was pulled out of the trust for a refinance and never put back in, which is actually worse. As long as you have some time on your hands, check and make sure that your house is actually in your trust. If you find that it’s not, it’s much easier for you to get it there than it will be for your executor/trustee after you’re gone. If you don’t have a trust at all (and choose to ignore my advice to create one), it would still be a good idea to check the title, because some forms of ownership are better than others if you’re looking to avoid probate.
Almost all of these steps can be done without having to leave your home – though it would be a good excuse to leave if you want to get away for a bit, and all of it can be done while following the CDC’s social distancing protocols. If you would like to learn more, or if you would like my help with any of these steps, please email me at email@example.com.