Attorney Sarah Miller Smith of the law firm Butler & College deals daily with a situation most people don’t like to face: end-of-life decisions.
As an attorney whose specialty focuses primarily on wills, trusts and estate planning, Smith understands that detailing what will happen to one’s assets after they become incapacitated or pass away is not a small concern or something to leave until the last minute.
“Forward-looking planning is important, particularly today, when we are seeing so many people hospitalized with serious cases of COVID-19 or, worse, dying prematurely from its effects,” she said.
She added, “On the plus side, we are seeing more interest in wills, trusts and powers of attorney than ever, perhaps because the coronavirus quarantines are giving clients more time to consider just what will happen to their loved ones and to everything they have.”
Smith’s approach to estate planning is comprehensive. Before drafting any documents, she sits down with the client to review in detail any special circumstances.
“Unlike some online document services that claim to provide a ‘one size fits all’ plan — which, more likely, fits none — we want to have a thorough overview of each client’s specific needs, so that their plan is personally tailored to them.”
Smith noted that if family dynamics change, and the client’s wishes follow suit, the original documents she has prepared can be easily updated to reflect the client’s revised decisions.
Another important element of any estate planning is the selection of an individual to step in and serve as attorney in fact.
“Under today’s stringent rules, if you are hospitalized, no one is going to be able to go in and be by your bedside,” she pointed out. “So, it is more important than ever to have identified the person on the outside who is legally allowed to make important decisions for you.”
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