The COVID-19 pandemic has many people thinking about estate planning. Most adults in the United States have no Last Will and Testament or have an outdated will that that does not address their current life situation. Additionally, many people have no durable general power of attorney to handle financial matters or an advance medical directive to address what happens in the event of a personal health crisis. Perhaps now is the time to work on getting your estate planning in order.
If you have no Will or other estate planning documents, consider the following:
- To whom and how do you want your assets to be distributed?
- Do you have special assets you want to pass to a specific beneficiary?
- How will assets for the benefit of minors be handled? Trusts? Custodial accounts?
- Who do you want to serve as your executor and, if necessary, trustee to manage and distribute your assets?
- Have you discussed your plans with your spouse and other family members?
If you have no power of attorney or advance medical directive, consider:
- What are your wishes for handling your affairs and healthcare decisions?
- Who do you want to serve as your agent or agents under your power of attorney or advance medical directive?
- Have you discussed health and medical care decisions and wishes with your agent?
If you do have estate planning documents, review your existing documents with the following questions in mind:
- Are those documents current and do they reflect your wishes? Are the executors (in your will) and trustees (in your trusts), as well as all successors, appropriate, able, and willing to serve?
- Do the provisions of your will and trusts pass your property to the people or charities you wish to benefit?
- Do the provisions of your will and trusts meet the best interests of the beneficiaries?
- Since signing your current documents, have you experienced any major life changes (changes in marital status, births/deaths, changes in residence, major purchases or sales of assets)?
- Are the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies up to date? For many people, these assets are the largest part of their estates (other than their residence).
- Do you know where your original will and trusts are located? Does your executor or trustee know?
- Is your advance medical directive is current? Do you have copies or original counterparts available? Does your agent named in the directive have a copy or know where you keep your documents?
Finally, consider writing a letter to your executor, trustee, agents, and family outlining your wishes and adding any personal directions you do not want to put in your formal documents.
Take the time now to focus on important planning matters.
If you have questions about estate planning, please contact one of the estate planning attorneys at Woods Rogers. If you like, we have estate planning questionnaires we can provide to help you focus on key issues.