At this point, you don’t need to be reminded of the events of the present. If there were ever a wake-up call to get your estate plan in order, recent news is it. Planning for the future is especially critical if you are a business owner or CEO.
First Steps to Asset Protection
Generally, it is folks over the age of 60 who have the most to lose—at least in financial terms. At this age, many are financially well established and beginning to look toward retirement. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is especially dangerous for people in this age group (which isn’t to say that younger people aren’t also at risk), and this is all the more reason to pause and develop a strategy for handling whatever the future may hold.
The first step towards protecting your estate is taking inventory of what you own and what you owe. This means making a comprehensive list of assets and debts, including account numbers and contact information, as well as names and contact information for your important advisers. Keep the information up to date. Store this document and associated copies of originals in a secure location. Additionally, be sure to deliver a copy to the financial agent(s) you have selected in your estate plan.
No estate plan? Read on.
Assess Your Situation and Your Family’s Needs
Once you have taken stock of your possessions and your debts, consult an experienced estate planning attorney. Discuss your hopes and concerns for your family’s future. Identify family members who may be good agents for you as well as those who may need additional structure.
Build a Plan that Meets Your Needs
First, make plans for your potential disability. This is a critical step to protect your family in the event the unexpected occurs. Beyond a will or living trust, you should also have your attorney draft a Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directive making sure that the people you trust have the authority and instructions you may need them to have. Now, more than ever, it is important to have a plan in place should you fall ill. After all, even temporary incapacitation may result in you needing someone to pay bills, taxes, care for business-related financial obligations and, very likely, your own family.
Discuss with your attorney the potential advantages and disadvantages of creating a will or a living trust. Wills distribute your property when you die. Living trusts can make distributions at your death as well as give administrative guidance during your life to your agents in the event of your disability. Consider and decide on a plan should your loved ones become incapacitated or die themselves. Who should inherit then and how?
Coordinate Your Plan with Your Life
Don’t forget beneficiary designations, payable on death designations, joint ownerships, and other mechanisms that transfer property at your death. Make sure that they are consistent with the rest of your plan. Make sure that your agents have access and control when you think it is wise.
Lastly, Talk to Your Family
Now is the time to call a family meeting (virtually, of course). Communicate your intentions to ensure there are no misunderstandings concerning your planning. Giving your family members accurate expectations This is also a great opportunity to share your love and express your gratitude for those people for whom you care most.
Contact Attorney James M. Miskell
The global COVID-19 pandemic has already brought enormous change to our lives. The best thing all of us can do to protect against changes still to come, good or bad, is to exercise foresight and prepare in the ways we are able. Contact Attorney James M. Miskell and his team of estate planning and elder law attorneys today and start taking steps towards protecting yourself, your family, and your assets.