One of the primary reasons people sign an estate plan is to prepare for the unexpected. And the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is certainly one of those unexpected situations that you should prepare for. With many schools and businesses closed, the increased time at home may give you an opportunity or new perspective to revisit your estate plan (or prepare one, if you do not already have an estate plan in place). Here are three legal tips you may want to consider:
1. Check your estate plan with your attorney to make sure it is up to date.
Do you count yourself among the 42 percent of American adults with a will or trust? If not, take action to start planning. Even if you do have an estate plan, review it. Maybe one of your heirs got married or died. Maybe you’d like to add or remove people from your will. Or perhaps your personal representative is no longer capable of handling your estate. Make sure you have designated alternates for your personal representative, legal guardian, and trustee.
You should also review your estate’s assets. If your estate plan includes a personal property memorandum, you may be able to revise the distribution of personal property by simply revising your list without amending your will. If not, you will need to revise your will to reflect any changes. If you maintain a separate record of account information and essential documents, take steps to update this as well.
2. Make sure you have designated agents to take care of your medical and financial decisions in the event you are incapacitated.
Should you become ill with the Coronavirus or another ailment and end up unconscious in the hospital, who will make decisions on your behalf? It is a question that many people fail to consider, and once you are incapacitated, it’s too late. An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you execute a Medical Power of Attorney so that your wishes are respected should you become incapacitated. The documentation will also point to a specific person who can make important medical choices for you. A living will, sometimes referred to as an Advanced Directive, can also be executed with the Medical Power of Attorney to allow you to specifically state your wishes when it comes to your end of life medical treatment.
It is also important that you have a Financial Power of Attorney. Anyone who travels frequently can benefit from having a trusted friend or family member named as their agent to act on their behalf regarding finances and property management. Of course, should you become incapacitated, designating someone as your Financial Power of Attorney can also be incredibly useful to ensure that your bills and other legal and financial obligations are met.
3. Make sure your current assets are properly coordinated with your estate plan and/or funded trust.
Evaluate your assets to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Consult with your estate planning attorney and tax professional to make sure you’re avoiding the common mistake of assets not being properly titled. In order for the trust to be funded, the assets need to be titled in the name of the trust. Also, use this time at home to review any beneficiary designations to ensure they match up with your overall estate plan. Because the distribution will be made according to who is listed on the beneficiary designation form, you want to make sure that this is not undoing the work of your estate plan.
Here at Nielsen Law, we help families find peace of mind by planning for the unexpected. We are here to help during the Coronavirus and during future times of uncertainty. Planning for the unexpected is exactly what we do. If we can help you or your family during this time, please let us know.
Nielsen Law PLLC provides family focused estate planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information and to learn about our firm, please contact us.