If the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 has you worried and thinking about that estate planning you have been putting off, you are absolutely not alone. The good news is that there are things you can do during this time of social distancing to take control and get prepared.
Here are five steps you can take right now to take action to protect yourself and your family:
- Make a list of your assets and accounts. Think…bank accounts, life insurance, annuities, stocks/bonds, investments, retirement, mortgages, credit cards, student loans, etc. List out how your accounts are owned (jointly/individually). Be sure to include your online accounts, as well. Review and list the names of your primary and contingent beneficiaries for each account and their respective share. You may realize you haven’t named a beneficiary or you need to make changes! Estate planners, financial advisors, and tax professionals need this vital information to create a plan that will work for you when you need it. Having it ready in advance will help you get organized and streamline the process.
- Take inventory of all of your important documents and information. Now is the time to dig for that birth certificate, car title, deed, or social security card you’ve been meaning to find. List out all of your digital accounts (and passwords too). If you have everything together in one place, you have already made things exponentially easier for your loved ones to manage things if you suddenly cannot.
- Have the discussion about who will step in if you become incapacitated and are not able to make health care or financial decisions for yourself. Write this name down, and then, think of a backup to that person. If your first choice is unable to step in for you… who would be next in line? Write that name down, too. We often see plans completely unraveled because a backup was not named. If you have minor children, now is the time to think about who you would want to step in to care for your children if you, or your spouse or partner are not able. We know this is a difficult thing to think about. This part of planning, alone, is a very common reason many people don’t go through with their planning. It’s almost impossible to think about, but continuing to put it off, can put your family at risk.
- Review your will or trust plan. If you have an old plan, ask yourself these questions: Does it still achieve your goals? Are the beneficiaries named still the people you would want to receive your assets? Do you still feel comfortable with who will step in for you to manage your health and finances if you become incapacitated? Is the person you named as guardian for you children still ready to step in to care for them? If you don’t have a plan, find out how state law determines who will receive your assets as it may be contrary to your wishes.
- Set up a virtual planning or review session. If your plan needs an update or if you are planning for the first time, scheduling a planning session is something you can do to take control and get prepared right now. We have procedures in place with your health and safety in mind. We are happy to meet with you over the phone or video conference.
Eventually, we will all be on the other side of this, but we realize this crisis brings different thoughts and worries to everyone. We want you to know we are here for you. Please give us a call to ensure that you have a plan that works for you and your family.
This post is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.