Estate Planning Basics for Difficult Times

Benjamin LongAdvanced Directive, Estate Planning, HIPAA Authorization, Power of Attorney, Trusts, Wills

The Importance of Estate Planning During the Pandemic

“With all these anxieties and unknowns weighing on your mind, it might feel like there’s suddenly a pressing need to get your affairs in order―just in case.”

Preparing for Unexpected Health and Financial Decisions

Most people who contract COVID-19 experience mild symptoms, but it does not hurt to be prepared just in case you need to be hospitalized, explains the article “A Guide to Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic” from It is scary to think about being so sick that you aren’t able to make decisions for yourself. However, that’s the point of an estate plan: to ease your fears. You’ll feel better knowing you’ve made health and financial decisions in advance and your loved ones won’t have to guess about your wishes.

Essential Components of an Estate Plan

Even without a global pandemic, everyone should have an estate plan. If you don’t have one, now is the time to get it done, even if you are single and have limited wealth. An estate plan includes documents like a revocable trust, financial powers of attorney (FPOA), health care powers of attorney (HCPOA) and more.

Financial and Health Care Powers of Attorney

Right now, the medical and financial powers of attorney are on everyone’s mind. These two documents allow a person you name to do your banking, pay your bills and make medical decisions, if you are quarantined at home, admitted to the hospital, or become incapacitated. If you don’t have a financial power of attorney, a family member will need to request the probate court to appoint a guardian. This will be expensive and time-consuming. The same goes for the health care power of attorney. If a decision needs to be made in an emergency situation, the family will not have the ability to enforce your wishes.

Living Will and Advance Health Care Directive

A living will, known in some states as an advance health care directive, lets you be specific about what end-of-life treatment you do or do not want to receive, if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Without a living will, the decision to remove life support must be made by loved ones, without knowing what you want.

HIPAA Waiver for Medical Information Access

A HIPAA waiver permits your loved ones to access medical information. Even when there is a health care power of attorney, there are some institutions that will refuse access to medical information without a standalone HIPAA waiver.

Last Will and Testament

The last will and testament is the legal document that is used to direct distribution of property at the time of death, appoint an executor who will oversee the distribution of assets, and, if you have minor children, name a guardian for them. Without a last will, the court will rely on state laws to determine who inherits your property and who will raise your children.

Establishing a Living Trust

A living trust is a legal contract that creates an entity to hold your assets. If it is a revocable trust, you control it and you can make changes to it anytime you wish. If you become incapacitated or unable to manage your estate, the living trust avoids the need for a court-appointed conservatorship. When you create the living trust, you appoint a successor trustee who will step in when you are unable to manage your affairs. The living trust creates privacy, since the assets in the trust do not go through probate, which is a public process.

Safeguarding and Sharing Your Estate Planning Documents

Storing Documents Securely and Accessibly

Once you have an estate plan, make sure that the documents are safe and the right people can access them. Some estate planning attorneys store documents for their clients. Copies of relevant documents should be given to your treating physician, financial advisor, family members and any trustees or agents. Keep high quality scanned copies on your computer, and label them, so that they can be identified. Don’t name them “Scan1” and “Scan2.” Label them accurately and include the date the documents were signed.

Communicating Your Plan with Key Individuals

Speak with your estate planning attorney to ensure that you have all of the necessary documents to protect yourself, your loved ones and your property.

Benjamin E. Long: Estate Planning and Probate Law Expert in Challenging Times

As a Founding Attorney at Schlagel Long, LLC in Olathe, KS, Benjamin E. Long specializes in guiding individuals and businesses through intricate estate and business planning. With the ongoing pandemic, Ben recognizes the heightened need for effective estate planning to manage unforeseen health and financial challenges.

Expertise in Pandemic-Related Estate Planning
Ben’s expertise extends to preparing essential estate planning components tailored for the uncertainties of the pandemic. Understanding the anxiety brought about by COVID-19, he focuses on creating comprehensive estate plans, including revocable trusts, financial and health care powers of attorney (FPOA and HCPOA), and advance health care directives. His approach is to alleviate fears by ensuring clients’ wishes are clearly articulated and legally secure, especially in emergency health situations.

Professional Background and Recognition
Benjamin's legal prowess is backed by a J.D. from Washburn University School of Law and a B.S. in Biology from Kansas State University. His career is marked by notable achievements, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star and receiving the Martindale-Hubbell Client Distinction Award. His dedication extends beyond his practice as he contributes as an adjunct faculty member at Washburn Law School and head coach of the Kansas State University Mock Trial Team.

A Personal Approach to Legal Services
Believing that each client's story is unique, Benjamin invests time in understanding their values and goals. He is committed to protecting not just financial wealth but also the intellectual, spiritual, and human assets that define one's legacy.

Ensuring Accessibility and Communication
In response to the current crisis, Ben emphasizes the importance of safely storing and sharing estate planning documents. He guides clients through safeguarding their legal documents and communicating their plans effectively to family members and designated agents.

Commitment to Community and Family
When not practicing law or teaching, Benjamin cherishes time with his wife, Dr. Andra Long, and their two daughters in Olathe, Kansas. His community involvement and personal experiences enrich his perspective on the significance of estate planning, especially in difficult times.

Benjamin E. Long - Estate Planning Attorney
Kansas Estate Planning Legacy Planner

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