Estate Planning is essential at all times, but especially so in times of uncertainty.
People have varied reactions to COVID-19.
Some deny the seriousness of the virus.
Others are overcome with anxiety.
Still others find peace.
Perhaps you fall neatly into one of the categories.
Maybe you cycle through them.
Either way, it is easy to feel helpless.
What can you do in the face of a pandemic like COVID-19?
According to a recent Motley Fool article titled “The Coronavirus Should Have You Thinking About These 4 Things,” you can prioritize your estate planning.
Although estate planning cannot protect you from the virus itself, it can safeguard you and your loved ones financially and emotionally.
What specifically should you include in your estate planning?
A will or revocable trust.
Should the worst case scenario happen and you die, your heirs will receive your assets according to your wishes.
A last will and testament directs your estate distribution through a probate proceeding.
Although it can be time-consuming and expensive if you have a complex estate, it is better than dying intestate.
Dying intestate means you die without a last will and testament or trust in place.
In short, you do not control who receives your assets or takes guardianship of your minor children.
The government does, in the person of a probate judge who likely knows neither you nor your family.
It is also more expensive and time-consuming than probating a last will and testament.
Like a last will and testament, a trust also allows you to choose who gets what when you die.
Trusts can be a tax-efficient means of asset transfer while also bypassing probate.
Either way, settling your affairs would be far easier for your family in the midst of this pandemic if you had your estate plan in order.
Updated beneficiary designations.
Certain accounts and assets pass directly through beneficiary designations.
The designations overrule any directions in your last will and testament or trust.
For this reason, it is important to make sure the individuals named are your desired heirs.
Take the time now to review the beneficiary designations on your life insurance, IRA, and 401(k) account.
Advance Health Care Directive.
Advance health care directives are likewise critical in times like we are currently experiencing.
This legal document allows you to designate someone you know and trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
You can also provide directions, general or specific, regarding what type of care you would like to receive.
Prioritize this document as part of your estate planning so you will be prepared in case of illness or injury.
General Durable Power of Attorney.
Like the advance health care directive, a general durable power of attorney is beneficial while you are alive.
It allows you to designate an agent (also known as an “attorney in fact”) to make financial decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
While no one wants to “need” the legal documents mentioned above, the nature of being human makes them necessary.
If you are looking for a way to safeguard your loved ones during these uncertain times, work with an experienced estate planning attorney to get your affairs in order.
Reference: Motley Fool (March 8, 2020) “The Coronavirus Should Have You Thinking About These 4 Things”