Controlling What You Can When Things Are Out of Control –Estate Planning amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Sam Skorepa

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the United States, we’re all grappling with feelings of uncertainty as we face unprecedented upheaval in nearly all aspects of our lives. All at once we have been forced to confront and acknowledge the frailty of life as we know it and many of us now have extra time on our hands to reflect on what the future holds. Individuals should consider spending some of their social distancing time reviewing their Estate Plans, and, if they do not currently have an Estate Plan, evaluating whether now might be the time to have one prepared.  We often advise our clients that Estate Plans should be reviewed every three to five years, or upon major life events – including those none of us ever saw coming and hope to never again experience in our or our children’s lifetimes.

Tips for Reviewing your Estate Plan: 

  • Who is doing what? Are the individuals you named as executor and guardians for minor children under your Will, trustee(s) of your Trust, and agents under your healthcare and financial powers of attorney still able, willing, and qualified to act? Do you have adequate successors nominated for each role to ensure things will run smoothly if those first in line to act are unable to do so?
  • Where does it go? Do your assets pass to the individuals or charities (in amount and manner) that you desire? Have your financial circumstances changed with time or because of life events and, if so, do the provisions of your Will and/or Trust need to be adjusted? What about your beneficiary designations for life insurance, investments, and retirement accounts?  Do they represent your wishes? Have there been any changes to your family structure that were not contemplated in your original Estate Plan? Marriage, birth of a child, grandchildren?
  • What’s left? If after reviewing your Estate Plan and the questions above, you decide that no changes are needed, I have one last question for you: What’s left to do? If you created an Estate Plan with a Revocable Living Trust and haven’t taken the time to fund the trust, now might be the time. If your days are quieter and the pace slower (I mean, unless you have small children running around while you are working remotely) take the opportunity to transfer your assets into your Trust.  If you have any questions, give your Estate Planning professional a call.

Do I need an Estate Plan?

If you don’t already have an Estate Plan, you should make it a priority to ask yourself the difficult questions, ones you may have avoided because they make you uncomfortable or because they never seemed that urgent. Share those thoughts with your loved ones and family, and engage a professional to prepare the necessary documentation. An Estate Plan is just as beneficial for your family as it is for you.  In the absence of an Estate Plan, your loved ones are forced to make difficult but necessary decisions at an emotional and devastating time. Having a plan in place and discussing the impact your Estate Plan will have during an illness or after your death is essential in relieving some of that burden. The questions outlined above equally apply to those just starting their planning.  An Estate Planning professional can assist you in making sure your wishes are carried out.

That’s a wrap:

If you have a child or grandchild in elementary school, I know the title of this blog post caught your attention because Frozen II has probably become a near daily ritual by this point (at least it is in my house). Let’s take a moment to appreciate on a new level the sage example Olaf set for us in maintaining some control over what we can in the face of daunting adversity. Having an Estate Plan will provide you comfort and peace of mind knowing that your wishes will be honored in the event of a tragedy. Communicating your Estate Plan with your family will provide them comfort knowing you have laid out how you want matters handled in a time when clarity is paramount. And never let it be said that children’s movies can’t teach us a thing or two.

For questions specific to your circumstance, please contact the attorneys at Lane & Waterman at (563) 324-3246.

Sam focuses primarily on estate planning, probate, and trust administration as well as real estate transactions and development. He also assists corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities with formation, structure, and advises on general business, contractual issues, mergers and acquisitions, governance, due diligence, and compliance. 


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