Estate Planning During Coronavirus

There’s no time like the present to complete your estate plan.  As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Americans are facing unprecedented realities.  Each day brings more uncertainty about school and business closures, event cancellations, and social distancing rules that impact everyone.  Times like these should serve as a reminder of the importance of having a well-designed estate plan.

Most people believe an estate plan consists of just a will or trust.  The fact is that proper estate planning includes several documents that are designed to ensure your estate avoids probate, that your assets pass seamlessly to your intended beneficiaries, and that your family can access and control your money when you no longer have that ability yourself.  The following documents are foundational to a comprehensive estate plan:

Trust.   A trust is an important tool because it either holds your assets during life or receives them after your death, which allows you to direct the management and distribution of your assets.  The ability to manage your property with a trust can be especially helpful during a disability or illness, and it also avoids a costly and time-consuming conservatorship proceedings if you become unable to manage your own affairs because of an illness.  If your trust is properly funded, your family can avoid time-consuming and costly probate proceedings after your death.

Will.  A will works as the main dispositive document, or as a “pour-over” to move your assets to your trust when you die if you forget to completely “fund” your trust—which many people do.  And a will is the only estate planning document in which you may nominate a guardian for your minor children.

Power of Attorney for Finances.  A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to handle your financial affairs if you become incapacitated or unable to handle them yourself.  This is a particularly valuable component of a solid estate plan because the individual you appoint will be authorized to file tax returns, pay your bills, and carry out other important financial matters on your behalf.

Advance Health Care Directive.  An advance health care directive allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.  You may also express your wishes about donating organs or ending life support in the event you become terminally ill or are in a persistent vegetative state.

Making time during the coronavirus pandemic to update your estate plan—or create a new one altogether—will provide certainty and comfort during these turbulent times.  Although our firm is practicing social distancing by limiting in-person meetings with clients, we have the ability to discuss your estate plan by telephone or video conference, and can assist anyone throughout California with their estate planning needs.  In addition, we can arrange to have your estate planning documents executed remotely if you feel uncomfortable meeting in person.  If you have any questions about creating or modifying your estate plan, please call Wolff Mascaro LLP today at 949-769-3608.