Estate Planning Spurred by the Pandemic
By most estimates, the majority of Americans do not have an estate plan in place. Topics like death and sickness are easier to avoid than deal with so estate planning often gets pushed to the backburner. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that you never know what the future holds and that the time to create an estate plan is now. Estate planning and the pandemic is particularly relevant in terms of incapacitation.
At a time when most Americans feel out of control, estate planning can provide a sense of security. A comprehensive, current estate plan answers all those scary “what if” questions: What if something happens to me? Who will care for my children? Who will get my property? Will my family be provided for? Completing an estate plan with the help of a qualified attorney will answer these questions. When you take time to consider your estate planning and the pandemic and its possible effect on your family, like others, you will gain a huge sense of relief that you have taken care of this and that you and your family are protected.
In addition to motivating Floridians to create a comprehensive plan, the pandemic has changed how they think about estate planning, teaching Naples residents that estate planning goes beyond a will and that it is critical to keep your estate plan current.
1. Estate Planning Goes Beyond a Will
When most individuals think about estate planning, they think about planning for their death and making a will. However, the COVID-19 pandemic taught us that estate planning also includes planning for your incapacitation when an illness or injury makes it impossible to communicate your own decisions. In addition to a will and trust, every Naples estate plan should include a healthcare power of attorney, living will, and financial power of attorney.
With a healthcare power of attorney, you authorize an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This tool can give you peace of mind that a trusted individual will carry out your wishes if you cannot communicate them. Additionally, in a living will, you can instruct your loved ones and healthcare providers on your preferences for end-of-life care, including ventilators, feeding tubes, CPR, dialysis, and organ donation.
In a financial power of attorney, you name a trusted agent to make financial decisions on your behalf. Your agent can pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell or purchase assets, and sign tax returns, among other things. Granting an agent this power ensures that your affairs can be managed and maintained during your incapacitation.
If you do not have these documents in place, your loved ones will have the pressure of making these emotional decisions without your guidance. Furthermore, they may be forced to petition the court for guardianship, which can be expensive and take months to complete. As you see estate planning and the pandemic can alert you to the benefits of a living will, healthcare power of attorney, and financial power of attorney documents.
2. It is Critical to Keep Your Estate Plan Current
For Naples residents with estate plans already in place, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of ensuring that your plan is up to date. Your plan should be a living document. An estate plan that does not reflect your current wishes is sometimes worse than having no plan at all. An old estate plan will trump any wishes you convey orally at the end of your life.
It is best to review your plan with your estate planning attorney every three to five years. In addition to periodic reviews, you should update your estate plan whenever you experience a significant life event, such as a marriage, divorce, move, or the reception of an inheritance.
During a review of your estate plan, you and your attorney should confirm that beneficiary, agent, executor, and trustee designations are in accordance with your current wishes. Additionally, you should confirm the distribution of your assets and ensure that the plan reflects any recent changes to the federal and state tax and estate laws. Finally, you should update your location list of important documents and access information for digital assets.
No one could have predicted the destruction that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to Naples and the entire country. It taught everyone that you can never truly know what the future will hold. Being prepared for the unexpected and having a comprehensive, updated estate plan in place is one of the greatest gifts that you can give to your loved ones.
Call A Naples Estate Planning Lawyer
If you have questions about creating an estate plan, you should contact Nici Law Firm. James R. Nici is an experienced Naples attorney with over 25 years of experience. He is well versed in these issues and can create an estate plan that fits your needs. Contact our office today at (239) 449-6150 or use our web form to set up a free consultation.