Health crisis puts focus on estate planning

Important for people to have ‘peace of mind’, Yukon attorney says

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By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

Estate planning should be considered a necessity – for everyone.

With the current COVID-19 crisis, some Yukon-area residents are anxious and don’t want to leave their homes.

For many people, this situation has focused their attention on what would happen if they became seriously ill or died from the coronavirus.

That’s why creating an estate plan is important for anyone age 18 and older, said Yukon attorney Jennifer Thomason.

Estate planning has been deemed an “essential service” during this health crisis, Thomason noted.

“Having that plan in place can really provide that peace of mind just knowing you are covered in case something does happen … to take care of the ‘worst-case’ scenario,” she said. “Hopefully it doesn’t. But if something does, you are covered in that situation.”

Each estate plan has two parts. One is the will or trust, which determines how someone’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries after they die.

“The other part is more important right now,” said Thomason, who owns Thomason Law at 115 E Vandament.

“The ‘advance directive’ or ‘living will’ lets the client choose the level of care they want to receive in regards to the use of life support and feeding tubes, organ donation and specific medical situations like that.”

And, the estate plan can be modified if the person’s needs, circumstances or family size changes.

It’s also important now for people to consider having a power of attorney.

“That document appoints someone who can step in and make medical decisions and financial decisions for you,” Thomason said. “If you do happen to get sick and end up in the hospital, this lets you know you have somebody you trust who is talking to the doctors and is able to make medical decisions for you.”

Older Yukon residents and people with underlying medical conditions who are in the “vulnerable” category have been advised to shelter at home to reduce the risk of catching the virus.

“They can use that financial power of attorney to appoint somebody who’s actually able to go out and conduct business for them – signing different documents on their behalf of other things that may need to be taken care of,” Thomason said. “They can have somebody out in the community doing that for them so they can stay home where they’re safer.”

THEY ARE ESSENTIAL

Since law firms are considered essential businesses under the governor’s emergency proclamation, Thomason’s office remains open to serve clients.

“And it’s primarily for that reason – there are a lot of people in need of getting these things taken care of right now,” said Thomason, who’s had her Yukon law practice for five years.

Thomason encourages anyone to call 265-3565 if they have questions about estate planning. She can help people update their existing estate plans, wills and trusts if any revisions are needed.

“It’s really important for anyone to have something in place,” Thomason said. “For parents with minor children, having a will is extremely important. It allows parents to appoint a guardian to take care of their children if something does happen to both of them.

“It’s one of those things a lot of people don’t like to think about, or they think it’s only for when you pass away and doesn’t have as much relevance during life as well. But that’s not necessarily the case. Those other documents can be very helpful for people of all ages (and income levels) to have in place if something comes up.”

The Yukon attorney, who earned her juris doctor from the Oklahoma City University School of Law, believes it’s critical for people to know what they need to be covered and protected. Most important, she wants people to have access to the information they need and know what steps to take.

“Having that peace of mind – with the knowledge – is what I’m focusing on right now,” Thomason said. “I want to make sure people have access to me, if they need to, to get their questions answered.”

Free initial consultations can be done in person or over the phone. For more information, visit Thomason Law at 115 E Vandament or call the office at 265-3565.