Estate planning has been forced to the front and center for many people this year. Folks who previously did not have estate documents decided to create them, while those who already had plans in place needed to review their documents.
Early in the pandemic, some folks did their documents themselves using online tools. However, this may not be the best strategy, and you may want to talk to an estate planning lawyer to review your documents and make sure everything is legal, enforceable, and no changes or updates need to be made.
So what are your options? What do you need to do considering a pandemic is still in full force in our country?
First: Health Care
Giving that we are currently experiencing a pandemic, this may be the most important item to consider right now. How do you want to be cared for if you reach a point where you cannot make decisions for yourself? Do you want to receive life support? Do you want to be an organ donor? What are your end-of-life and burial wishes?
I cannot stress this enough that we are in a pandemic and these are no longer hypothetical, far-off questions. This is a disconcerting and difficult time, but we must make sure our documents are in place before they’re needed.
Who will care for your children or dependents after you pass? You may want to designate multiple levels of guardianship in case your first choice is unable to become your child’s guardian when you’ve passed. We typically have clients designate a primary and secondary choice by default.
Third: Will or Trust
Decide if you need a living will or a trust. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, which I’ve written about extensively before, and your family’s circumstances will help you decide how you want to go about passing on your estate. Remember, everyone has an estate, regardless of how much in assets you have. Trusts are not just for the wealthy.
Fourth: Beneficiaries on Accounts
Finally, make sure you review all the beneficiary designations on your accounts and make changes as appropriate. This includes retirement and life insurance, brokerage accounts, and other accounts where the beneficiary designation takes precedence over what you put in your will or trust. Very, very rarely does the will/trust take precedence over the beneficiary designation, and only after going to court to have the designation overturned. It is far wiser and far better for your beneficiaries to have your designations up to date before they need to come into effect.
Please speak with your estate planning attorney prior to endorsing any of the documents mentioned in this article.