Estate Planning During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Do you have an Estate Plan or need to update it?
By Mary Korkodian & Brad N. Baker
The unusual crisis of COVID-19 has affected and disrupted almost every aspect of our daily lives. As we grapple with changes in our day-to-day routine, many of us also are experiencing stress and worry about the unknown. This can cause us to think about some of the bigger issues in life. One way to alleviate some worry and anxiety is to have an estate plan that reflects our wishes and values. We can use this time as a chance to consider how we want to leave things for those we care about and plan for the unexpected in life.
Should I Form a Trust or a Will?
The best place to start is by learning the difference between a Trust and a Will by clicking this link.
Assets held in a Trust will not be probated, while assets held outside of the Trust are often subject to probate. Thus, more often than not, people in California would benefit most by forming a Trust and a specific type of Will, known as the “Pour-Over Will.” In very rare circumstances, we would recommend forming a Will only. Please seek legal advice to discuss what estate planning documents would be most appropriate for your particular situation.
What if I Already Have a Trust or Will?
This is a good time to take out and re-read your current estate planning documents. Ask yourself the following questions:
· Is my estate plan still a good fit given the current circumstances in my life?
· Have I become married, divorced, or widowed?
· Has my family grown?
· Have my children reached adulthood?
· Are there more or different beneficiaries that I wish to take from my estate after I pass?
· Are the persons I named as power-holders (i.e., Trustees, Executors/Attorneys-in-Fact) still the same persons I would entrust with those positions today?
· Do I know what estate planning laws have changed since my Trust and/or Will was created or amended?
· Have I acquired more assets, and if so, have I properly titled them into my Trust?
If you find there are changes you wish to make, or simply want to learn about any recent estate planning changes in the law that could impact you and/or your children, please seek legal advice.
Was Your Trust Formed Before 2015?
A very important concept was introduced in 2011 called “portability”, but it was not permanent with regulations until 2015. This has changed the landscape for married couples and their estate plans. Thus, married couples should consider amending their estate plan to take advantage of portability, which will minimize the burden of estate taxes, with income tax benefits resulting, for their children.
To learn more about portability, please click here.
Do You Have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Asset Management?
Powers of Attorney are invaluable when trying to avoid conservatorships. Most people think in terms of dying, but people are most likely going to be incapacitated before death. (Hopefully for a few minutes, and not for years.) Thus, an estate plan really needs to address incapacity first and foremost. Powers of Attorney coupled with a living trust protects you from our court systems that are overburdened.
This may be a good time to think about your own healthcare needs, such as end-of-life care and nominating persons to make healthcare decisions should you be unable to.
These questions are just a starting point; there are many more questions and issues that can cause a need to create or amend your estate plan.
If you have questions or needs, our estate planning experts are available to help.
Please Note: This document does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney for legal advice on what to do in a particular situation.