It goes without saying, but the impact of COVID-19 and the coronavirus has been profound, and in many ways has challenged our sense of security. With this, it has become more and more apparent that that many people are not prepared for the implications of a pandemic, including the status of their estate plan.
This lack of preparation creates the potential for family members and loved ones to be in a situation where they’re unable to make emergency health-care decisions. Now is the time to take action. This is a unique season of life where many people suddenly and temporarily have more time on their hands, making this an ideal time to review your estate plan and future goals.
If you’ve never created a will, now is a great time to get started on the process—if you’re over the age of 18 and own anything, regardless of the amount or size of the assets, you should consider the benefits of an estate plan.
Having an estate plan is not useful if you don’t appoint the right person to carry it out, or if it’s outdated. Many people made their wills years ago and named executors who were relevant at the time, but are no longer appropriate due to that person’s death, age or a change in life circumstances.
Likewise, one of the biggest issues in estate planning relates to couples who have not updated their estate planning documents since getting separated or divorced. It’s common for couples to draft mirror wills, meaning they name each other as executor and beneficiary. When you are separated, your will provisions don’t automatically change, meaning your ex-spouse may still be your trustee or beneficiary, even if that’s not what you wish. In order to ensure this is not the case, you’ll need to update your will. Failure to do so could result in an expensive and complicated court process—an unfortunate and costly situation which can be avoided with proper planning.
If you have gotten married since making a will, you likely need a new one. Even if you have a will from years back, if it doesn’t state that it was made “in contemplation of marriage”, it may become void upon your wedding day. If you have a will but have been married since making it, then you no longer have a valid will. Additionally, if you added children to your family since making your will, there are important factors that should be addressed, such as appointing guardians, making provisions for your child’s inheritance and making trust provisions. It should also be noted that if you are in a common law relationship and pass away 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 Pacific Cascade 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.