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04.06.20   |   COVID-19, Insights

Don’t Panic: Estate Planning in a COVID-19 World

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As Estate Planners we regularly confront death and are uniquely aware that, for better or worse, we as humans are never guaranteed another day. That fact, however, has never been more apparent to the rest of the world than it is right now.

This tragedy has us all contemplating not only death but also serious questions related to our medical treatment and the possibility that someone else may need to make these decisions for us at some point (see more about this specific topic here). If you have put off your estate planning, please do not panic in these uncertain times by using a do-it-yourself website to create an estate plan.  We recognize you may not want to leave your home.  We can meet with you over the phone or virtually to get this process started.

Estate Planning documents are prepared by attorneys for good reason, but even the best estate planning attorney cannot plan around unknown circumstances—let alone an online form-based document creation website. The pre-prepared background information, questions, and prompts asked of you by an electronic form will inevitably fail to fully account for your unique circumstances and relationships (let’s be honest, we all have a crazy family member). Furthermore, estate planning documents can be tailored to your individual situation in a way that electronic forms simply cannot accommodate. There are numerous documents one should consider, including but not limited to wills, trusts, financial powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and living wills. A good estate planning attorney is going to get to know you in a way that some of your closest confidants may not because your asset situation, relationships (familial and otherwise), medical condition, values and goals all matter when it comes to selecting the right documents and putting together an effective plan.  You can also be confident when using an estate planning professional that all of the necessary formalities will be met to make your estate plan valid. In addition, once your documents are complete, an estate planning professional is always available to help interpret documents, re-title assets, and communicate with your financial advisors, banking institutions and insurance professionals.

Regardless of your planning needs, I would implore you to do the following things to make life easier on your loved ones in the event of an untimely death:

  1. Make an asset list (the amount of time executors spend trying to determine what their loved ones owned is staggering, all because no one took the time to make a comprehensive list of assets, including bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, etc.)—be sure this list also includes your digital assets;
  2. Tell your loved ones (i.e., the person or people you would designate to administer your estate) where they can find this asset list, as well as the necessary passwords to access such assets—which can be stored separately for security purposes;
  3. Evaluate from a financial perspective what life would look like for a surviving spouse or other loved one in the event of untimely death (consider whether it is a comfortable position that won’t significantly alter the survivor’s current standard of living?);
  4. Think about and actually convey your desires regarding medical treatments and end of life decisions to your closest loved ones (i.e., the people you would designate to make these decisions for you in the event you cannot make them yourself). You have no idea the gift you are giving your loved ones by making your wishes known so they can avoid future uncertainty in what will inevitably be some of their most difficult moments.

We understand it can be tempting to go online to create estate planning documents in order to achieve peace of mind without leaving your home. Please know that our estate planning professionals can not only provide you with the same peace of mind from the comfort of your home, but they can also ensure that your specific needs and goals are met in the most effective way possible. Feel free to contact any of our five offices if you want to initiate the estate planning process.

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