Ask the Attorney

QUESTION: With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, my husband and I realized we are not prepared for sudden emergencies like this. We don’t even have Wills. What if one or both of us get the virus, what would happen? What do we need to have in place?

ANSWER: That is a great question. All of us were caught by surprise with this virus. It can lead to serious health issues or even death. At minimum, I would say you each need the following documents: (1) Durable Power of Attorney- This allows your spouse (or someone) to access financial accounts that are in your name only such as an IRA, 401(k), certain annuities, etc. Anything that is in your name alone cannot be accessed by your spouse (or anyone else) if you are incapacitated. (2) Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care- This allows your spouse (or someone) to make medical treatment decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. (3) Will – This allows you to choose who will be the personal representative of your estate and also it allows you to choose who gets all of your assets when you die.

In addition, here a couple of documents you may want as well: (1) Living Trust- This could increase the amount of money you would be allowed to keep if your spouse had to go into a nursing home. It will also avoid probate. (2) Lady Bird Deed- This deed will transfer your home (or other land) to someone directly upon you death. It will avoid probate and save your home from being taken by the State of Michigan if you were in a nursing home on Medicaid.

I would advise you to see an attorney who is experienced in estate planning and Medicaid planning.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law attorney with an advance Master of Laws Degree. He is the Managing attorney of The Elder Law Center and the law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. Mr. Walling is also a part-time Professor at Western Michigan University. Please send any questions you would like addressed to: The Elder Law Center, 1662 East Centre Avenue, Portage, Michigan 49002. You may also call (269) 324–7344 to set up a free initial consultation. This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.