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Can I Make My Retirement Plan My Estate Plan?

Estate Planning For Life's Stages

An elder couple thinking about retirement
People are worried about the possibility of a sudden death due to COVID-19, and they want to get their legal affairs in order. Exacerbating the situation are the stories we read in the media about patients who are unable to communicate with loved ones, and hospitals that, because of the exigent circumstances, are creating their own do-not-resuscitate (DNR) rules—even if they conflict with the patient’s wishes.

If you’re in a situation where you must quickly create or update your estate plan, here are some suggestions that might help you. Every situation is different, Forbes’ article “Seven Tips For Converting Your Retirement Plan To Your Estate Plan,” says, but these some tips that may start the process.

  1. Speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. An experienced estate planning attorney will help make certain that your documents make sense for your situation and are legally drafted.
  2. Create your will. You can only have one valid will, and it should be made under the state laws of your domicile with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney.
  3. Draft Power(s) of Attorney. A Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document through which you appoint the person you want (your “agent”) to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so, usually because of physical or mental incapacity. POAs are best created using the rules of the state in which you anticipate their use.
  4. Complete your HIPAA releases. If you have designated an agent under your medical Power of Attorney, but she doesn’t have HIPPA authority to be informed of your medical condition, it will be a hassle. HIPAA is designed to protect a person’s health information privacy. Sign a HIPAA Release Form for your POA agent in advance, to avoid headaches for your family.
  5. Draft a living will or advanced directive. This document states your preferences for life sustaining treatment. Living wills generally have provisions related to end-of-life care and require the maker’s and witnesses’ signatures to make them legally binding—but this varies in each state.
  6. Understand the POLST process. A Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) order is a medical order. The process improves communication of a person’s decisions to accept or decline medical intervention and to make certain that these decisions are honored. Advanced directives and POAs are important, and generally should be filed with your physician and hospital, but a POLST order is in many medical emergency situations the one form the doctor will see.
  7. Create a document storage plan. Estate planning forms should be kept in places where they are easily accessed. Don’t place them in a safety deposit box, because of rules banks have about access after the box holder’s death.Ozarks Legacy Law's office in Aurora Missouri

Reference: Forbes (April 9, 2020) “Seven Tips For Converting Your Retirement Plan To Your Estate Plan”

Suggested Key Terms: Estate Planning Lawyer, Wills, Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), Intestacy, Probate Court, Inheritance, Asset Protection, Capacity, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Directive, Living Will, HIPAA Waiver, Probate Attorney