Preparing for the Worst of Coronavirus: What Existing Estate Planning Documents Should You Review?
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
April 9, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world and caught the vast majority of us completely off guard. People of all ages around the country have found out that they are not prepared for the death of a loved one — or vice versa, that their loved ones are not prepared for their deaths.
Obviously, no one can ever really be prepared for this situation, but far too many families don’t have a will in place or other important estate planning documents. It is an unfortunate fact, but many people find out when it is too late that their estate planning was lacking. Worse, these processes are not ones that can be completed after the fact.
Which Estate Planning Documents are Most Important?
Estate planning can be a highly complex topic. For this reason, it’s important that you understand the main documents that need to be in order:
Your will is one of the most important documents you can have prepared in the event of your passing. This document sets forth your last wishes and how you would like your estate distributed.
There are many stories of people dying without having a will and leaving a nightmare situation behind for their relatives. It is imperative that you have a will on file when you pass to avoid such circumstances.
If you already have a will, now is the time to ensure it’s up to date. Circumstances often change the older we get. If you haven’t reviewed your will in a while, parts of it could be out of date and not in line with your current wishes. Make sure to regularly review and update your will so it reflects how you want your estate divided when you pass.
Revocable Living Trust
Having a Revocable Living Trust can save your loved ones from a great deal of stress and wasted time in the event of your death. A properly set up revocable living trust will allow your relatives to skip the probate process and execute your will sooner.
Make sure that everything you have is titled to your trust and all of the documents are in place. Again, it is better to do this now rather than finding out something is wrong after it’s already too late.
Durable Power of Attorney
Do you have plans in the event that you become incapacitated? One of the worst aspects of the current COVID-19 pandemic is that people are being confined to hospital beds and stuck on ventilators. In many cases, people are not recovering from their condition. These documents should be prepared by an experienced attorney and need to be in place before something happens.
Estate Planning Checklist
To help you make sure your estate planning is on track, go through this list and make sure everything has been completed:
- Reviewed your will and trust for accuracy
- Created Durable Power of Attorney
- Considered a Revocable Living Trust
- Funded your living trust
- Designated beneficiaries and planned how your assets will be distributed
- Ensured that beneficiaries are properly designated on your life insurance
- Ensured that beneficiaries are properly designated on your 401k and retirement accounts like IRAs and pensions.
- Discussed with your family your final wishes so that all parties understand
- Ensured that any safety deposit boxes have a designated heir
- Ensured your children or other dependents are properly provided for with SSI or Medicaid
- Made sure all documents are in a safe and appropriate place and easily accessible by the right parties in the event of your death
- Make sure that all relevant parties in your family are aware of the location of important files, assets (banks, brokerage, life insurance, annuities, mortgage), digital assets and their logins, etc. It’s an expensive scramble to figure it out later. We do it often for people who are unprepared and/or disorganized.
It isn’t something most people want to think about. But failure to have these estate planning documents in place can leave great stress and hardships for your surviving family. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, it is more important than ever before that you speak with an estate planning attorney. In the event of your death, you want to make sure your family is taken care of and won’t have to worry about failed estate planning.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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