Estate Planning and COVID-19
How an Estate Plan will prepare you for the future and protect your assets
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is rapidly evolving in the United States, we are seeing the devastating impact of the outbreak on the healthcare system, the volatility of the financial markets on the economy, and the well-being of each of us as the world changes in unprecedented ways. Given the current atmosphere, this time of uncertainty has led many individuals to think about how they may best prepare for the future and protect their assets. To help you navigate these challenging times, below are a few estate planning strategies you might want to consider.
I. The Importance of Estate Planning:
A proper estate plan will provide for the orderly distribution of your assets after death, as well as the possibility of illness or incapacity during life.
Specifically, in the event of your incapacity during your lifetime, without the proper estate planning documents in place, your loved ones will need to access the Probate Court system in order to make decisions on your behalf. Those decisions are typically for the management and control of your finances, to consent to and monitor your medical treatment, to make decisions pertaining to the essential requirements for your physical health and safety, and/or to make end-of-life decisions and preparations. As accessing the Probate Court system may be costly and timely, it is important that you have a proper estate plan in place so your loved ones will not need to access the Probate Court system to make decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
Whatever stage of life you are in, proper estate planning today gives you and your loved ones a legacy of loving memories, shared values, wise choices and diligent distribution of assets.
Accordingly, during this time of uncertainty, it is important to ensure that you have a proper estate plan in place.
a. Ensuring your Estate Planning documents are up to date:
For people who have an estate plan, now more than ever, it is important to ensure that your estate planning documents are up to date. As part of this process, you should review your current estate planning documents to ensure that these documents reflect your current wishes.
Of particular importance, it is critical that you have up to date Powers of Attorney for your financial matters and medical decisions, especially if you are part of the high risk demographic that is most vulnerable to the adverse outcomes associated with having COVID-19.
b. Creating an Estate Plan during the COVID-19 pandemic:
If you do not have an estate plan, now is the time to schedule a meeting with your estate planning attorney so they may assist you in putting these documents in place. Estate planning documents to consider include:
- Wills: Wills express your wishes regarding the disposition or transfer of assets after you die. You can also name a guardian to care for your minor children if both parents pass away;
- Trusts: Trusts are a detailed set of instructions expressing your wishes for management of assets during your lifetime and transfer of those assets at your passing. When established and fully funded, a trust may allow for the distribution of an estate without having to go through the probate process;
- Special Needs Trusts: Special Needs Trusts provide for the financial support for a disabled child or spouse without losing his or her eligibility for governmental benefits such as Medicaid;
- Powers of Attorney: Powers of Attorney allow you to designate a person to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf, in the event of your incapacity; and
- Advance Health Care Directives: Advance Health Care Directives, also known as living wills, allow you to express your wishes regarding end-of-life decisions and life-sustaining treatments or procedures.
Regardless of your personal situation, our office is able to assist you and your family with your estate planning needs during this challenging time.
II. Measures our office has implemented to ensure the health and safety of our clients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic:
As estate planning attorneys, our practice is dedicated to serving our community and our most vulnerable citizens, including seniors, those who are ill, disabled, experiencing health challenges and children with special needs. As the vast majority of us are practicing social distancing and staying at home in an effort to flatten the curve of infection, our firm is committed to ensuring everyone’s safety and making it easy and accessible for our community to get their estate planning questions answered and documents in place.
While the COVID-19 guidelines make gathering together for consultations, reviewing and signing your estate planning documents more challenging, we have adapted our procedures to ensure our clients can get the estate planning documents they need.
a. Virtual Meetings:
Specifically, our firm is offering flexible options to meet with you and/or your family virtually through teleconference calls or video conference calls for estate planning consultations and reviews of your estate planning documents.
Our office will prepare your estate planning documents or revisions to your estate planning documents, along with a detailed explanatory letter that outlines the provisions of your estate plan or revisions to your estate planning documents, and we will electronically send the documents to you via email. If you would like, you may schedule a telephone conference call or video conference call with your attorney to review those draft estate planning documents.
Once the final edits are made to your draft estate planning documents, our office will email you the final draft to review. After you have reviewed the finalized estate planning documents, you may call or email our office to schedule a time for the signing of these documents.
b. Executing your Estate Plan:
In an effort to ensure the safety of our staff and clients, our office continues to practice social distancing, which creates some challenges for the signing of estate planning documents. However, during this difficult time, to accommodate our clients, our office has adapted our procedures to ensure that our clients are able to get their estate planning documents executed. Specifically, when it is time to execute your estate planning documents, our office will meet with you for a very limited period of time, possibly during off-peak hours and/or possibly on weekends to ensure limited contact with other individuals who may be in our building at the time of your scheduled meeting to sign your estate planning documents. In addition, in following the COVID-19 guidelines, we will remain at least six (6) feet apart during our meeting for the signing of your estate planning documents. Furthermore, out of an abundance of caution, we highly urge you to reschedule your meeting to sign your estate planning documents if you are experiencing even the slightest COVID-19 symptoms.
III. Contact Mignanelli & Associates, Ltd.: