The COVID-19 pandemic caused disruption around the world and created a greater sense of urgency for estate planning and end-of-life directives. Having an estate plan is essential for everyone, no matter what stage of life you are in, and we encourage you to use this time as an opportunity to get your estate plan and financial ducks in a row. When we are living in such uncertain times, you want to ensure that your family will be well taken care of should anything happen to you. If you do not have an estate plan when you die, state law dictates the division and distribution of your assets. This can not only be a costly process but it can unnecessarily burden your loved ones during a time of grieving. Having a plan provides peace of mind during this difficult time.
Estate Planning for Every Stage of Life:
Estate planning looks different for each individual, especially depending on your stage in life. If you are a young individual or married couple, your estate may be on the smaller side and likely encumbered with debt such as student loans. If you have children, additional considerations should be made, including naming a guardian for any minor children. In contrast, if you are an older family of advanced years, you may consider establishing wills that pour all assets into a trust where the surviving spouse’s access to the funds can be somewhat limited to protect that spouse if s/he has or may become susceptible to the financial pleas of the children. Every phase of life presents unique circumstances. Your estate plan can be flexible and change to fit those new circumstances as you progress through life. It is important to get started and get a plan in place. The pandemic has reminded us all that life changes and it can change dramatically and quickly.
Estate Planning Must Haves:
Even the most basic estate plan should include a Will, General Durable Power of Attorney (“GDPOA”), Health Care Directives, and a Digital Assets Inventory. A Will directs how you want your assets distributed upon your death, and importantly, names an executor, who will be the person in charge of administering your estate. A GDPOA grants a trusted individual the authority to act on your behalf, giving the agent broad powers to manage your legal and financial affairs and can avoid the need for a court-imposed guardianship. Similarly, Health Care Directives, which include a Health Care Power of Attorney, allow you to appoint an individual to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot communicate your wishes. Finally, as Ohio has adopted the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act, an individual should create a Digital Assets Inventory and plan in advance for a fiduciary to have access to your digital assets after death.
The pandemic threw a wrench into the standard estate planning process. Typically, the planner would meet, in person, with the client to discuss their estate planning documents, and the planner would meet with the client for the execution of those important documents. During the pandemic, however, we adjusted our practices to ensure social distancing guidelines were followed. We now offer our clients virtual meetings as well as remote, socially distanced signings to adhere to guidelines and ensure all parties are safe and comfortable throughout the estate planning process.
We will continue to incorporate these practices going forward to best serve our client’s needs. If you would like further information on your estate plan, please contact one of our Estate Planning attorneys.