posted on March 30, 2020 by Willingham & Cote
by Torree J. Breen, Estate & Gifts, Divorce & Family Law
Recently we have seen our world turned upside down. Children are home from school and bored. People are anxious not knowing how long this pandemic will last. To keep their minds distracted, we have heard a lot of people are now thoroughly cleaning their homes and repairing things that have been neglected for years due to our very busy lifestyles.
Now that we have been charged with the duty to protect our neighbors through government containment orders, it is time to reflect on all those things that we have always wanted to do, but just did not have the time to do it.
One of the things you may want to review and update during this time is your estate plan. If you do not have a plan, it may be the perfect time to finalize a plan to ensure your wishes are known. Part of the process of developing an estate plan involves the drafting of powers of attorney designating persons you wish to make both medical and financial decisions for you, if you are unable to do so for yourself. Preparing an estate plan also allows you to designate the persons you wish to be in charge of any minor children should it be necessary.
If you already have an estate plan, you may want to review your documents to ensure that they are up to date. Many of our clients have come to us years after having prepared documents indicating that they need major changes to their plan because their lives have changed significantly since they originally drafted their documents. You may want to designate new beneficiaries to your estate such as charities, grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren. You may need to replace persons previously designated to make health and financial decisions for you should you not be able to do so due to changes in your prior designated persons’ lives.
If you have a trust, now is the time to ensure that all your assets have been transferred into the trust to avoid probate court. You should make a list of all your financial assets such as bank accounts, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, stocks, bonds, CDs, and any post-tax accounts to confirm that those assets have successfully been transferred into your trust. You may also want to confirm that you have assigned beneficiaries for any pre-tax accounts such as 401ks, IRAs, etc., pursuant to the transfer on death designation forms. Your financial money managers for those accounts should be able to assist you with those forms. Any asset left out of the trust or not transferred on death pursuant to the designated beneficiary form will have to go through probate court.
In order to make sure your wishes are known, you may also want to schedule a meeting with your loved ones to discuss your plan and to fully inform them of the goals of your plan. Pursuant to that meeting you may want to discuss where your estate planning documents are located as well as what are your preferred medical decisions if you are ever unable to make those decisions.
Educating your loved ones is the key to ensure all of your hard work will pay off. In this very high anxiety, chaotic time, finalizing an estate plan will give you a sense of security and relief knowing that your wishes will be realized.