Estate Planning During a Pandemic: The New Normal

The gravity of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a multitude of Americans to confront many issues they had previously put off because the topics are uncomfortable. Mortality has become a central concern due to the rise of the Coronavirus, so estate planning has become a priority for many individuals who currently have no plan in place and face the outlook of their probate estate distributed by the court rather than their own wishes. There are a few important documents you should have in place to handle unexpected situations such as illness, incapacitation, or death that make up a solid, basic estate plan.

One of the most obvious issues is the improper distribution of assets after a loved one’s death. It is not easy to talk or think about, but as they get older, a plan needs to be in place. If not, there is no guarantee that their assets will be handled properly after they die. More importantly, planning ahead can help protect accounts in special circumstances. For example, for those who fall ill and need expensive care and facilities, naming a legal beneficiary in advance can make sure that they can access money to help pay for the necessary treatment. Beneficiaries can also create a barrier from scammers, as with the right documents set up, there is a second source of control over accounts to prevent them from being drained without approval.

While the topic may not be easy to approach, there are a few tips to make starting a conversation easier. The first and most important tip is to be honest and respectful when bringing it up. It seems self-explanatory, but this is often the hardest part of the whole process. Just keep in mind that things will be a lot better when a plan has been created rather than leaving it until it is too late. In cases with multiple beneficiaries, tensions can run especially high. A good way to mediate these tensions while also ensuring things are handled correctly, is to hire a fiduciary. Fiduciaries, unlike other financial advisors, are legally obligated to conduct all business with their clients’ best interest above everything else. The most important tip is to stay dedicated to the process of getting an estate handled and taking the proper steps to make sure it is done correctly.

Even though COVID-19 has created a sense of uncertainty in many areas of our lives, creating or updating an estate plan is a huge step in taking back control and gaining some peace of mind. Though your options are virtually limitless, proper estate planning, deciding on the “who, what, when, and how”, and executing this with the least amount paid in taxes, legal fees and court costs possible can be a challenging and emotional affair to wrestle with alone. For more information, contact Talley LLP today.

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