Panicking about Not Having an Estate Plan with Coronavirus Raging? Here Are Your Need-to-Know Basics
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
April 30, 2020
Statistics say about half of you haven’t looked at your estate planning documents since you originally signed them (or in at least a while), and that the other half of you don’t even have a will yet.
Whether you have been putting it off or haven’t ever really thought about it, we imagine now that you’re neck-deep in coronavirus headlines (and likely messages from all of your relatives about staying home) it’s crossed your mind.
Most people aren’t fearful of actually dying, but anxiety about loose ends seems to be creeping in. Before you allow pandemic panic to cloud your thoughts, read on to learn a few need-to-know basics for getting your affairs in order.
Two Paths for Those Who Need Estate Planning Help Right Now — Which Are You on?
While a comprehensive estate plan is a process that takes time to develop and implement, there are a few things you can do quickly — while practicing social distancing — that will at least protect your assets should the worst-case scenario befall you. Think of it like a Band-Aid. Then, when all of this is behind us, you can revisit and make changes as necessary.
Generally speaking, two tiers of estate planning clients are calling in right now, and what you already have in place will determine which path you will take.
Some clients are starting at square one, drafting their first will. Others are revisiting their existing plans. Which path are you on?
I Don’t Have a Will and I Am Unsure Where to Start
Every person, regardless of whether you believe you have enough of an estate to warrant planning, needs to complete four basic documents:
- Last Will and Testament
- Powers of Attorney
- Health Care Surrogate
- Living Will
Creating and signing these four instruments allow for the distribution of your assets according to your wishes, appoint someone you choose to make financial decisions in your place, and guide medical decisions pertaining to your treatment and care.
Finally, any time you open an account with a bank, chances are good you named a beneficiary. This goes for life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and annuities, too.
If you have any money-related accounts, contact the institution for a copy of your beneficiary statement. Make updates if you need to.
I Probably Need to Review (and Update) the Plans I Have in Place
For those who have already done the leg-work on their estate plan, but simply haven’t reviewed the documents in some time, now’s the best time to take a look.
Besides your will(s), POA(s), and other directives, here’s a checklist of some of the basic items you should review:
- Durable Powers of Attorney. Is there any change in your relationship with currently designated agents who will make financial decisions for you?
- Health Care Surrogates. Who is allowed to have your medical information? Who will make health decisions on your behalf? Is it who you thought? Or who you still want?
- Irrevocable Living Trusts. With changes in the market, are your assets in a trust being held, invested, and distributed before and after death the way you want them to?
- Living Wills. Have you decided who can make the toughest decisions regarding life-prolonging treatment if you become terminally ill?
Whatever you do, don’t let panic get in the way of ensuring your estate plans are in place. If you have questions, reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney for advice.
As the community practices social distancing, ask Haimo Law about distance conferencing options, too!
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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