Now more than ever is the best time to establish or update your estate plan. It serves not only to direct where your assets will go after death, but to ensure an easy and cost-effective administration for your family members. The reality is that running the risk of being without an estate plan is ever more dangerous amid Covid-19. Fortunately, despite the pandemic, you can still work remotely with your estate planning advisors to achieve your objectives. With easy technology and teamwork, we can overcome the perceived obstacles that are in your way of working on your estate plan.
The answer to whether you need an estate plan will always be yes. Though, depending, it may be a very simple plan. But if you pass away without an estate plan then your assets may have to go through the probate, which is a court supervised process that values your estate, settles your debts, and eventually transfers your assets to your legal heirs. The probate process is both lengthy and expensive, which can be all together avoided with the right estate planning techniques. Additionally, estate planning goes beyond planning for your assets. It can also address your end of life care and the care of your minor children. Again, without specifying your preference in an estate plan the Court will need to get involved, causing significant delays and expense. Planning for your future is one of the most cost-effective decisions you could make for your family and could save them from a lot of frustration.
The bad news is Covid-19 has instilled obstacles in our daily lives that we never anticipated. The “shelter-in-place” orders have kept most people at home and unable to meet face to face with their professional advisors. We understand that those in-person meetings have helped build confidence and trust among us and our clients, and we miss those interactions too. But that should not keep you waiting for a rainy day to work on your estate plan. The simple truth is during a pandemic many of us cannot afford to wait.
The good news is it is still possible to work with an estate planning professional, albeit with some adjustments. In lieu of in-person meetings these days we meet with our clients virtually or by telephone. Our process begins with having you complete a client questionnaire so we can get an idea of your family dynamic, your assets, and your wishes. During our first meeting conducted by Zoom or by telephone, we get to know you and discuss your estate planning objectives. Once we draft your estate planning documents, we provide them to you with a summary for review. Any questions about the documents can be addressed by email, telephone, or a Zoom meeting. When the drafts are finalized, you have various signing options. Most estate planning documents require a notary and/or two witnesses. Fortunately, some essential businesses such as banks or FedEx have a notary onsite and people who can serve as witnesses. In the worst-case scenario where you have Covid and are under quarantine, you can still sign documents on your own with some legal effect, although it is not ideal. These times call for creative solutions which we are prepared to discuss.
Do not wait for this pandemic to “end” to start your estate plan. It is still very feasible to establish an estate plan while the shelter in place orders are in effect. Doing so will lend you peace of mind and ensure that your heirs will receive your assets without frustration and extra expense. We encourage you to contact an estate planning professional to discuss what you can do for your family during this challenging time.