With the ever-increasing number of deaths in Europe and the U.S., many people are now doing what estate planning attorneys have advised them to do for years—get their estate plans in order. Many are having phone meetings or videoconferences with estate planning attorneys, says Barron’s in the article “The Coronavirus Has Americans Scrambling to Set Their Estate Plans. Here Are Some Key Things to Know.” People are worried, and they are in a hurry too.
However, estate planning can be complex, even when there is plenty of time to prepare. Here are a few tips:
Everyone should have three basic documents: a last will and testament, a durable power of attorney and an advance health care directive. These documents will allow assets to be distributed, give another person the ability to make financial decisions, if you are too sick to do so and also allow another person to talk to medical professionals on your behalf on treatment and care. These same documents are also a good idea for any young adults in the family, anyone older than 18 in most states.
With the proper documents prepared in accordance with the laws of your state, you may be able to avoid having a court appoint a guardian for minor children or having a probate court determine asset distribution.
However, there’s more. In addition to these basic documents, everyone needs to review their beneficiary designations on assets that include bank accounts, IRAs, annuities, insurance policies and any other assets. If family situations have changed, these may be out of date.
It’s also a good idea to have an attorney create a medical power of attorney for a minor child, in case another family member needs to take a child to the doctor, discuss their care and make decisions.
While young adults may be more worried about the financial impact of the pandemic, seniors and the elderly are concerned about having documents in order. Wealthy people are concerned about the impact that the pandemic may have on estate planning law, and some are engaged in planning to make substantial gifts, in case the current estate and give tax exemptions are lowered.
Other issues to be discussed with an estate planning attorney:
- Irrevocable living trusts, which provide an opportunity to direct how assets in a trust will be held, invested and distributed before and after death.
- Durable powers of attorney, which appoint an agent to make financial decisions.
- Health-care surrogates, which let people designate a surrogate to make health decisions on their behalf and receive health care information from physicians.
- Living wills, which allow people to designate whether to provide life-prolonging treatment, if in a terminal state.