Living with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for each individual to decide who it is that they trust most to make medical decisions if they cannot make those decisions themselves. Many of us may get sick and in that case, we may need someone to make important decisions for us. If you have not already done so, this is the time, while you are well and thinking clearly, to make those decisions and memorialize them in the appropriate legal documents. This advice is not only intended for older people but for anyone over the age of eighteen.
If you become so ill that you can no longer make decisions for yourself, it is important for your health care providers to have clarity both in who you have authorized to make decisions for you and what decisions you have already made for yourself. A North Carolina Advanced Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney can do those things for you.
In addition, this would be a good time to check your beneficiary designations on your IRA, 401K, 403B, life insurance and/or other contract policies to be sure that they properly reflect your intent. Often we discover an ex-spouse, ex-significant other or ex-friend as the beneficiary when it was clear this was not what was intended. Further, it is important that you do not designate a person as beneficiary because you believe “they will do the right thing and split the money as you have told them.” This causes enormous problems on so many levels from gift taxes to accountability but experience shows us that these accounts and policy proceeds rarely get distributed as the owner hoped. Correct designations need to be made from the beginning. We can help you with this.
Finally, consider putting together a document with all of your passwords, copies of life insurance policies and other important papers and storing it in a secure place. We often store those documents for clients in our law firm vault. If you need assistance with a Heath Care Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive and/or understanding beneficiary designations, the attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A. in Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington and Triangle can assist you. This can be difficult topic to discuss but this virus has certainly been a sobering reminder of how important it is to be prepared in every way. We are meeting with clients remotely via Zoom, teleconferences and other ways that make the most sense during this sensitive time.