I have been one of the lucky ones since the pandemic hit in March of this year. My loved ones are healthy, and my law practice is busier than ever. But I see the havoc COVID-19 has caused—I see it in my clients every day. I feel it myself sometimes, too.
It’s a sense of unease, of unknowing, and, perhaps most significantly, of a lack of control. It’s hard to plan for next week, let alone the future, when our environment, the advice from the experts, and indeed the outbreak itself, seems to change on a daily basis. Can we take a vacation? Does it make sense to have a family gathering for the holidays? And if not now, when?
What we can plan for
That fear of the unknown and the need for control is why my office has been so busy. It’s that old saying, “only two things in life are certain: death and taxes.” Since I’m an estate planning attorney, I deal with both. My high net worth clients are concerned that if the election tilts one way, the very advantageous estate tax laws will change, and we’re busy doing planning and gifting to take advantage of current tax laws.
But everyone, no matter their net worth, is suddenly acutely aware of their own mortality, so we’re also busy with estate planning. Preparing for death or incapacity is one way of taking control.
Everyone age 18 and older needs a health care directive, a power of attorney, a HIPAA form and a will. If you own assets (that don’t have beneficiary designations) with a gross value of more than $166,250 in California, you should consider a living trust. A trust avoids the more costly and time-consuming probate process (especially in the times of COVID-19 when courts are working at a slower pace).
How to plan and take control
Hastily preparing estate planning documents due to sudden illness, travel plans or an unexpected change in life is not ideal. If the pandemic has you with more time on your hands, a more constructive use of that time — and a way to garner a little control — is to think about your estate planning and get it implemented. Spend some time thinking about these documents and the decisions inherent in this type of planning. The state of the world probably has you thinking more than ever about your values, and that’s imperative in estate planning.
We generally encourage clients to think about the next three to five years. If something were to happen to you (death or incapacity) in that time frame, what would be important to you? Don’t just think about who would inherit your estate—that’s often the easy part.
Decisions to be made
In the event you are incapacitated, who would manage your assets? Who would make personal decisions for you, such as where you will live, who your doctors will be, how your spiritual needs will be met? Do you have pets that need care?
It’s also a good idea to name alternates in case your …read more
Source:: Los Angeles Daily News