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Estate Planning in a COVID-19 World

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives in so many ways: economically, socially, politically, our mental and physical well-being and of course, life and death. It has also caused many people to seriously consider their own mortality and what would happen to their family if they should die or become disabled. With reporting that more than 52 percent of persons age 55 or older do not have a will or the other key estate planning documents, it’s no wonder that the fear of COVID-19 has caused many people to recognize that they need to get their affairs in order. Here are some important considerations:

1. You need an estate plan. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy. It should be fairly obvious that we are all destined to die and for many, to become disabled before our demise. Estate planning is the process of ensuring that your health and assets are properly managed in the event of your incapacity and death.

2. Make sure you have the right documents. At a minimum, a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Trust will likely need to be considered. Also, is it important to have a durable power of attorney, health care power of attorney and HIPAA Authorization.

3. Update your current plan. If you already have an estate plan in place, it may be time to update it. Perhaps your children were minors when it was drafted or the people you have named as your fiduciaries or no longer willing or able to serve.

4. Fund your trust and update beneficiary designations. An unfunded trust will likely require a probate estate to be opened when you pass away. Also, it is important that your beneficiary designations on your life insurance, IRAs, 401Ks, annuities, etc., are consistent with your estate plan.

5. Remote signing. If you are worried about contracting COVID-19, Michigan law permits remote signing and notarization of legal documents including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and deeds.

6. Seek help. Avoid the urge to draft your own estate plan. Your estate plan is too important to try to do it yourself. Don’t leave a mess behind for your loved ones to sort out. Seek help from an experienced estate planning attorney to best protect yourself and your loved ones.

Elder Law Today is written by Brett A. Howell, Certified Elder Law Attorney. The newsletter is published as a service of The Elder and Estate Planning Law Firm, P.L.L.C. This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For a consultation to address specific questions, please call (810) 953-3846.

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