The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded people that tomorrow is never guaranteed. While hand washing and social distancing will go a long way toward keeping you safe and healthy, it’s also important to make sure you have the critical estate planning documents that make your wishes known in a worst-case scenario. 

Preparing for Illness or IncapacityEstate planning during COVID

COVID-19 infections are unpredictable. You could feel fine one day yet need emergency medical care the next. If you were to require a ventilator and be unable to speak for yourself, who would you want to make important healthcare decisions on your behalf? Your spouse? Your adult child? A trusted friend?

Healthcare power of attorney documents allow you to name the person of your choice to handle decisions about your medical needs in the event of illness or incapacity. You can even choose an alternate person who can step in if your first choice person is also struggling with a COVID-19 infection or otherwise unavailable.

An advanced directive, also known as a living will, lets you state your wishes for end-of-life medical care. It outlines how you feel about measures such as mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and palliative care. When this document is created, you should give a copy to your doctor as well as the person who you named as your healthcare power of attorney.

In addition to outlining how you want to handle your medical needs, your estate plan should include a general durable power of attorney giving someone the authority to manage your finances while you are ill or otherwise incapacitated. This ensures that bills remain paid, checks are deposited, and your investments are managed. As with the healthcare power of attorney, you can choose an alternate person to step in if your first choice is not available.

Making Sure Your Final Wishes Are Respected

When someone dies without a valid Last Will and Testament, their property is distributed according to Virginia’s intestate succession laws. Generally, these laws allow your closest biological relatives to inherit your property. In many cases, this is not ideal. For example, you might be living with a long-term partner you never legally married, have stepchildren you love as your own, be estranged from certain relatives, or feel strongly about leaving a legacy to support a favorite charity.

Your will outlines who should receive your assets after your death. This includes cash, real estate, and investments, as well as your personal possessions with monetary and/or sentimental value. Assets with designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies, are not included in your will because they automatically pass to the person or persons you’ve previously named.

Funeral and burial arrangements are sometimes included in a person’s will, but this should not be the only place for this information. A will is not read immediately after your death, so you need to make sure your wishes regarding your funeral and burial are kept in a more easily accessible location.

Choosing a Guardian for Your Children

If you are a parent with young children at home, your will has the secondary function of naming a guardian who will assume legal responsibility for them after your death. If you don’t choose a guardian, the state will step in to decide who becomes responsible for their care.

If you are a single parent, the assumed guardian is typically your child’s other biological parent. If you believe this person is unfit to be a guardian, you should discuss your concerns with your attorney to determine the best course of action.

Alperin Law Provides Contact-Free Estate Planning Options

To ensure your safety, Alperin Law has adopted COVID-19 procedures that follow CDC recommended guidelines for infection control. We are using telephone calls and Zoom to eliminate the need for in-person meetings. Documents can be delivered by email or fax, and we will work with you on a case-by-case basis to create a safe signing option.

Contact us online, or call our Virginia Beach office directly to learn how our estate planning attorneys can be of service. We serve all communities in Eastern Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Newport News, Isle of Wight County, Hampton, the Eastern Shore, and Northeastern North Carolina, including Currituck, Elizabeth City, and the Outer Banks.


Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.