Estate Planning During a Pandemic
I know - you are probably thinking "not another Coronavirus article." Sure we are all overwhelmed and tired of thinking about the Coronavirus, but the impact of the virus in the world of estate planning is even more important in the midst of a pandemic to ensure all of your legal affairs are in order. The virus has forced everyone to face fears they would not have expected to see in their lifetime which causes anxiety and stress. Many individuals are re-evaluating their finances, priorities, social activities, shopping trips, and the morbid need to review one's own mortality. According to caring.com at least 52% of people 55 or older do not have a Will or are missing other key estate planning documents. Everyone should have an estate plan in place regardless of the current global pandemic. Why is an Estate Plan Important? 1. Address guardianship needs for minor or disabled children 2. Eliminate disputes as to distribution of assets and who is in charge on your death 3. Resolve potential disputes with blended families 4. Protect assets from remarriage or divorce 5. Protect assets from creditors 6. Plan for an incapacity or long-term care event 7. Tax Planning Fundamental Estate Planning Documents Each individual should ensure their estate plan includes the following basic documents: 1. A Will that names a Personal Representative (including successors) and distributes your assets to your intended beneficiaries. 2. A Living Will Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to nominate a medical decision maker if you are incapacitated and directs your wishes in the event of terminal illness and life sustaining measures are being used to keep you alive. 3. A General Power of Attorney to name an agent to manage your finances, property, and debts if you are incapacitated. 4. In some situations an inter vivos trust (trust created during your life) may be an appropriate and necessary estate planning tool to help distribute or hold your assets. Even if you have the estate planning documents above, now is more than an ideal time to review these documents to ensure they still meet your desires. Changes in family dynamics such as marriage, divorce, death, and births, changes in assets or debts, business interest, medical diagnoses, and long-term planning needs are crucial reasons to review an estate plan to determine if any updates are necessary.
True, there are many websites offering self-preparation estate planning services, but it is important to keep in mind that estate planning is more complex than most individuals realize and oftentimes these "shortcuts" significantly impair your intent upon your death. Hiring a professional now saves your estate money in the end because your heirs are not forced to spend money resolving any deficiencies in the self-made estate plan. Truthfully, I could write a book about the disastrous problems we have encountered with self-made Wills and oftentimes these services can run close to the price of a professional.
Social Distancing Options for Clients
Many estate planning documents require a notary and a Will requires two witnesses. Our firm has developed a safe and creative protocol when meeting with our clients and when our clients sign their estate planning documents. Our clients have the option to conduct all meetings through telephone or video. The final signing conference can be conducted in the safety of your vehicle while our notaries and witnesses observe the signing from a safe distance outside of your vehicle.
We look forward to serving you now or in the future. Stay healthy, safe, and positive.
Sincerely, Auriana Clapp-Younggren
This article is not intended to replace legal advice applicable to your situation and should be used only for informational purpose. Consult with your legal or tax advisors before implementing any suggestions contained herein. Ms. Clapp-Younggren is an associate attorney with the firm of Sandra L. Clapp & Associates, P.A. and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 938-2660.