Four Ways to Stay Connected With Friends and Family in the COVID Era

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many of us to make drastic changes to our lives, including how we visit our friends and loved ones. Until there is a vaccine that is widely available, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging people across the country to limit indoor gatherings.  However, that doesn’t mean you have to go without seeing your family and friends!  In fact, there are many ways you can stay connected during these trying times. Let’s take a look at some creative, fun ways to stay connected. 

Virtual Wine Club, Book Club, and Other Group Activities

Just because it’s not ideal for large groups to congregate indoors right now doesn’t mean you can’t organize a virtual club, like a book club, wine club, or bible study. Once, twice, or four times a month, hop on a Zoom call with your friends or family members and converse over a good book or try new wines and foods and chit chat for a bit. Keep things fun and laid back. There are enough things going on right now to stress out about. Take a break from it all and just have fun for an hour…or three. Don’t have Zoom? There are many ways to meet up online, including Google Hangouts and Facetime.

 

Schedule Regular Video Calls

So you can’t see your friends and loved ones as often as you would like in person, but there’s no cap on how often you can video chat. If you have kids and grandkids, this is a great way to stay connected. You can also get creative and celebrate birthdays and other parties via apps like Zoom and Facetime. 

 

Have Goodies, Groceries, and Gifts Sent to Loved Ones and Friends

Who doesn’t like surprises? When you can’t spend birthdays and holidays with the people you love, you can still brighten their days by having packages of goodies and gifts delivered to their homes. Surprising a family member with grocery delivery is another way you can show you care and are thinking about them. Have a family member that recently had a child or became injured and is on bedrest?  Surprise them with a meal delivery from GrubHub, DoorDash, or Instacart. The options are endless.

 

Send Some Snail Mail

Brighten someone’s day the next time they grab their mail from their mailbox by sending a thoughtfully written letter. Whether it’s just to say hello or pages filled with information and news about how your life is going, most people enjoy receiving hand-written letters in the mail.

 

These are just a few ways you can stay connected with friends and loved ones during the COVID crisis. Not only are virtual meetings and visits a good away to social distance and stay safe from the virus, but it’s good for your mental health to stay connected and up-to-date on your loved ones’ lives. Making Zoom calls fun with things like a book club or virtual birthday parties are great ways to interact with people outside your household and ward off loneliness and isolation. 

 

Do you have a loved one living in isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you interested in learning about in-home care or elder care laws in Florida? The team at Morgan Law Center can help. Give our office in Lake City, Florida a call today at 386-755-1977 to schedule a consultation.

Why You Need a Designation of Health Care Surrogate

Having a Designation of Health Care Surrogate (sometimes referred to as a “Medical Power of Attorney”) is important because if you ever become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself, this document will authorize a member of your family, or anyone you choose, to make medical decisions on your behalf. A whole host of medical conditions and accidents can render someone incapable of communicating their medical decisions in dire times. From dementia and mental illness to car accidents, strokes, and heart attacks. If you arrive at the hospital unconscious or unable to communicate, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate will permit a trusted loved one to make health care decisions on your behalf.  

What Makes a Designation of Health Care Surrogate Important?

When you experience an accident or medical emergency that renders you unconscious or unable to communicate, having someone named as your health care surrogate to make decisions on your behalf will make it easier for health care professional to treat you.  If you don’t have this document in place, the decision may fall on a relative that you would not choose to make such decisions for you.  If you are unmarried and have multiple children, the decision can become complicated because all your children will have to be consulted. This can pose headaches if the children do not agree on a medical recommendation.

Another complication arises when you have a partner to whom you are not married, as they will not be considered your legal next of kin and will not be able to make medical decisions on your behalf. In cases where the hospital cannot locate your next of kin and you have no Designation of Health Care Surrogate in place, your medical care provider will have to petition the courts to authorize medical treatment. 

How to Make Designation of Health Care Surrogate Legally Binding

For a Designation of Health Care Surrogate to be legally binding, the document must meet the legal requirements set forth by state law. Contacting an experienced estate planning attorney is a good first step.  An experienced estate planning attorney will walk you through the process and educate you on all the steps involved. The individual you eventually designate as the one to make medical decisions on your behalf is called a Healthcare Agent. This person, whether it is your spouse, adult child, or a close friend or partner, must be mentally competent.  Just like many important decisions in your life, it is also a good idea to have a back-up Agents named in the document just in case something happens to your first choice. 

If you are in need of a Designation of Health Care Surrogate, contact the team at Morgan Law Center in Lake City, Florida. Our experienced team is passionate about providing the help you need. Call us today at (386) 755-1977.

How to Avoid Having to Obtain a Guardianship for an Ailing Parent

Do you have an elderly parent you are concerned about, especially if they’re beginning to show signs of mental impairment or difficulty handling their personal affairs? If a parent becomes mentally incapacitated, you may have to obtain a guardianship in order to manage his or her finances or medical care.  Guardianships are extremely costly and time-consuming, and necessitate that the court supervise all actions taken on behalf of the ailing parent.  At Morgan Law Center, we recommend that guardianship proceedings be avoided if at all possible.  How?  Let’s find out.

A comprehensive estate plan is the best way to ensure that your parent’s wishes are followed when or if they become incapacitated.  In addition to creating a will or trust to direct the distribution of assets at your parent’s death, a good estate plan should always include a financial power of attorney, and advance health care directives in which the parent designates a trusted person to make health care decisions in the event the parent can’t do so for him or herself.

  • Financial Power of Attorney:  This document, known in Florida as a General Durable Power of Attorney, grants a trusted person, known as the attorney-in-fact, the power and authority to pay bills, and manage property transactions, investments, and bank accounts.  Make sure your parent’s power of attorney also grants the attorney-in-fact the power to establish a Medicaid-qualification trust, as one may be essential to your parent’s ability to qualify for long-term care benefits that will pay for nursing home care.    
  • Advance Health Care Directives:  Two documents are important here:  (1) Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and (2) Living Will.   The Designation of Health Care Surrogate will enable your parent to name the person he or she wants to make health care decisions if the parent can’t do so for him or herself, and will also waive the HIPAA restrictions so that the designated person can access the parent’s medical information.  The Living Will sets forth the parent’s wishes with regard to end-of-life medical treatment.  

In addition to the above, if your parent creates a living trust as part of his or her estate plan, the trust should designate an “incapacity trustee” to manage the assets held in the trust during incapacity, as well as instructions on how the assets are to be used and managed.  

Your parent must be mentally competent to create an estate plan, so the sooner the plan is in place, the better.  Once your parent becomes incapacitated, it will be too late. 

Do you have an aging parent that you’re concerned about? If your parents haven’t created a comprehensive estate plan, now is a great time to bring the topic to their attention, before it’s too late. Fortunately, the skilled legal team at Morgan Law Center in Lake City, Florida can help. Give our office a call today. We have a proven track record of helping families navigate the estate planning process. Call us at 386-755-1977 to schedule a consultation.

When Should You Begin the Estate Planning Process?

Estate planning refers to the act of making a plan to determine who receives your property and belongings after you die.  Good estate planning, however, also includes instructions for your care if you become disabled before you die, provides safeguards for loved ones who are not financially responsible, and minimizes taxes, court costs, and unnecessary legal fees.   

Unfortunately, estate planning is one of those things that few people think about until late in life.  However, the sooner you create an estate plan, the better. After all, no one knows how much time we have. 

What’s the Difference Between Estate Planning and a Will?

Many people think if they have a will, they have an estate plan.  However, a will is just one component of a good estate plan.  It can be an important component, as it directs your belongings and assets to the people you choose after your death.   If you have minor children, your will should designate who will care for your children in the event of your untimely passing. But as we said, wills are just one part of estate planning. Other components include the following:

  • Living Trusts
  • Powers of Attorney
  • Advanced Directives 

With so many components and so much at stake if you don’t have a plan in place before your passing, it’s important to seek out a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. Having a legally binding, well-thought-out estate plan in place will ensure your wishes will be followed and that you and your loved ones won’t be taken advantage of. 

Estate Planning Protects Your Funds and Saves Time in Court

Few people enjoy thinking of their own death and what will happen to their loved ones and belongings when they are gone. Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, your belongings and assets may be seized by others unrelated to you. If you have a good estate plan, the process of distributing your belongings and assets will be simple and straightforward.  If you only have a will in place and not a full estate plan, the process of distributing your assets will be messier, time-consuming, and expensive. Additionally, probate will become part of the process.

For those who don’t know, probate refers to the judicial process during which a will is determined to be legal and enforceable. Oftentimes, the probate process is costly and lengthy, especially if the will is contested at any point during the process. Additionally, every step of the probate process is public record, meaning your family will not have much privacy.

Thorough estate planning can avoid probate altogether. Fortunately, the skilled team at Morgan Law Center can help. Not only can our team help you create a plan to ensure that your wishes are honored, both in life and in death, but we can help craft any documents you may need to ensure your medical care is handled how you wish in the event that you are incapable of making decisions for yourself. In the event of your passing, our team will be by your family’s side to make sure your wishes are carried out.

The team at Morgan Law Center in Lake City, Florida understands that estate planning is a sensitive topic for many people, and we’re here to help you in any way possible. Give our office a call today to schedule a consultation. Contact us at (386) 755-1977.

Common Reasons Why People Put Off Estate Planning

Estate planning involves making decisions on who will inherit your estate upon your death. It also ensures that you and your assets are taken care of in the way you wish if you become disabled, and that your loved ones are cared for after your passing. 

 

Everyone has an estate. Estates can be modest or quite large. No matter the size, everyone has one and should have a plan on how that estate will be distributed. Unfortunately, not everyone has an estate plan or even knows what an estate plan is. Many people tend to put off estate planning because they’re too busy or think they are too young to worry about such things. 

 

The fact of the matter is tomorrow isn’t promised. Death isn’t a matter of if. It’s a matter of when. We’re all going to die and we can’t take our belongings with us. Estate planning allows you to decide what happens with your belongings. Without a plan, the state will determine who gets your assets.

 

What are some of the most common reasons why people postpone estate planning?

 

You don’t own much. Even if you don’t have many belongings, you may have children. Who will care for them if you die unexpectedly? Without a comprehensive estate plan in place, your children may go into the custody of a person you would not have chosen. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, everyone has an estate, no matter the size. Even if you only have a handful of belongings, wouldn’t you feel better if those belongings passed to your loved ones or people of your choosing? An estate plan will make this so.

 

You trust your doctor to make medical decisions about your health. What happens if you’re incapacitated and unable to make your own medical decisions? Are you okay being kept alive for months or years on medical machines, or would you rather have someone you trust stop the medical equipment when and if that time comes? When you have an estate plan in place, you can decide who will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf.

 

Your kids can just deal with everything after your passing. While this is an option, it could kickstart a host of problems and potential conflicts. Regardless of the size of your estate, leaving your children with no legal direction on how to divvy up your belongings may be time-consuming, costly, and result in lifelong conflicts that could have been avoided. 

 

You don’t have children or family to leave your estate to. As stated earlier, everyone has an estate. You don’t have to leave your estate to a family member. You can choose who to leave it to, including close friends, your church, or a charity whose work you admire. 

 

The team at Morgan Law Center would enjoy the chance to help you create an estate plan that covers all of the above issues and more. When you sit down with a member of our team, you can rest easy knowing the plan we create will save your family and loved ones a time, money, and heartache. Contact our office in Lake City, Florida today for a consultation at (386) 755-1977.

 

How to Manage A Loved One’s Money

Are you helping to manage an elderly loved one’s money?  For older parents, especially those with mental impairments such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, handling their money and paying bills is one of the first skills they lose. If you are considering helping your aging parent(s) manage their money, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you avoid problems down the road. Fortunately, the skilled team at Morgan Law Center can help. We have a proven track record of assisting people like you learn the ins and outs of managing loved ones’ finances. To get started, check out the following tips to make your new responsibility as hassle-free as possible.

 

  • Keep your loved one involved in the process. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing your loved one to just hand over all of their account passwords and account numbers. Keep them as invested and engaged as possible. Doing so will help foster a sense of trust. In simple terms, act like a fiduciary, or in the best interests of your parent(s) or loved one. This means avoid borrowing money or combining assets. 

 

  • Make sure your loved one has a current Durable Power of Attorney. In Florida, the law requires very detailed and specific powers, many of which must be initialed at the time the power of attorney is signed.  In addition, if your loved one needs governmental assistance for nursing home care, the power of attorney will need an initialed power permitting you to create a qualified income trust.     

 

  • Make sure all of the legal documents are signed and in order. If an important document is not signed properly and in accordance with Florida law, it is not legally valid.   This will cause a myriad of unintentional, and possibly damaging consequences.

 

  • Do not add yourself as a joint owner on your loved one’s assets or financial accounts unless doing so is consistent with your loved one’s estate plan.  Adding your name as a joint owner will cause the jointly-titled asset to pass directly to you, outside of your loved one’s will or trust.  This may be inconsistent with your loved one’s wishes, and can cause drama and problems with other family members.   

 

  • Keep receipts and pay as many bills online as possible. This creates a paper trail, making it easier to track expenses if questions ever arise in court, when applying for governmental benefits for your loved ones, or between family members.

 

  • Be mindful of actions that may be considered elder exploitation. In Florida, elder exploitation is a third-degree felony.  Misusing your power of attorney in any way could put you on the receiving end of an elder exploitation allegation.

 

Do you have an aging parent?  Are you thinking about elder care and helping them manage their finances? Do you have questions about the process and legalities?  We are here to help.  The team at the Morgan Law Center in Lake City, Florida is passionate about helping clients like you. Call our office today for a consultation at (386) 755-1977.

 

We Weren’t Expecting THIS Kind of Traffic!

What started off as a typical Friday morning in our office quickly turned to excitement as a wheel flew off a semi traveling down Duval Street and crashed through one of our office windows!

First responders at the scene estimated the wheel to be traveling at least 50-60 mph through the air when it hit our building.

Thankfully no one was injured!

 

(Below are a few pictures, as well as a video captured by someone’s dashcam.)

Tire from semi inside our office

Some of the damage to our office.

First responders remove semi tire

First repsonders removing the tire.

     

 

 

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