Have You Set Up an Estate Plan? Here Are the Reasons Why You Should.

undefinedThe rapidly accelerating impact of COVID-19 and the coronavirus has been unsettling, to say the least. Social norms that we have taken for granted have been pulled out from under us and left us bewildered and nervous for the future. The sad fact is that many people are not prepared for the implications of a global pandemic, especially when it comes to the potential fallout from not having an estate plan, will, trust, health directive or power of attorney in place.

This lack of preparation can quickly become a critical issue, potentially leaving family members and loved ones unable to make emergency health-care decisions. And while estate lawyers are always cautioning clients to prepare for the worst, by the time people realize the value in that kind of forward-thinking preparation, it’s often too late.

Now is the time to take action on this front. Many people have more time on our hands right now, making this the perfect opportunity to review their estate plans. As you take stock of your own plan, there are a few important things to keep in mind.

If you do not have a will, now is the time to get one. If nothing else can convince you, let this current global crisis do so. If you are over the age of 18 and own anything, you should get a will. Now.

Even if you have a will, you may need to change your executor or attorney. Having an estate plan is not useful if you don’t appoint the right person to carry it out. Many people made their wills years ago and named executors who were appropriate at the time, but are no longer appropriate due to that person’s death, age or a change in life circumstances. If that is the case, you should update your will.

Likewise, one of the biggest issues in estate planning relates to couples who have plans in place, but have not updated them since getting separated or divorced. Most couples make mirror wills, which means they name each other as executor and beneficiary. When you are separated, your will provisions don’t automatically change. So if you named your separated spouse as your estate trustee or beneficiary, that is still the case, even if you’ve separated.

The law around a divorced spouse being named as a beneficiary or executor is even more complicated. If you named your previous spouse in your will, that person gets skipped over — as if they were dead — and if you don’t have a backup beneficiary or executor, then your estate will likely face an expensive, complicated court process — one that could have been avoided with proper planning.

If you have gotten married since making a will, you likely need a new one. Many people are not aware that, unless a will specifically states that it was made “in contemplation of marriage,” it becomes void upon marriage. If you have a will but have been married since making it, then you no longer have a valid will and need to make one as soon as possible. If you have had children since making your will, there are important factors that must be addressed, as well, including appointing guardians, making provisions for your child’s inheritance and making trust provisions. It’s also noteworthy that if you are in a common law relationship and die without a will, your partner will receive nothing.

There are also many people who have a will but no powers of attorney. A power of attorney is a document that appoints someone to manage your affairs when you are still alive, but incapable of making decisions. This is done in two separate documents: one that appoints someone to make health-care decisions, and another that appoints someone to make financial and property decisions.

Here at Landerholm Family Law, we are constantly reminding people to make wills, review their estate plans and update their documents regularly. Sometimes we feel like broken records, and we might seem alarmist, but we do it because we’ve seen what can happen when people put it off.

People all over are feeling uncertain about many things right now, but please don’t let your estate plan be one of them.

You can call us today for a consultation to ensure you have an appropriate estate plan in place, including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and health directives. We are ready and able to help you with all of your estate planning needs fully in compliance with CDC and local heath experts’ coronavirus and COVID-19 recommendations.

Completing an estate plan isn’t a particularly exciting process, but it will provide some much-needed peace of mind in this uncertain time. Call our office today at (503) 227-0200 to start taking steps towards planning your future and protecting your family.