The reality of COVID-19 has forced many individuals to address the “what if” scenarios that were previously unthinkable, or at least the situations that no one ever wants to talk about or to deal with. Many clients are calling to start or update estate plans that they have previously placed on the back burner. Here are five things you should know in order to get that done.
- Most estate planning work can be done at home. You may not be able to physically meet with your attorney, but you can still create, update or finalize your estate plan. Our attorneys are working remotely and are available via email, telephone and video conferencing to advise you. Documents can be drafted and emailed to you for review, or delivered to you by mail or a tracked delivery service.
- Identify decision makers. Think about who you would want to make important decisions for you if you are not here or if you cannot make them for yourself. You will need to name someone to make health care decisions for you, someone to handle your finances, and someone to administer your estate. If you have children, you will need to name a guardian for them as well.
- Who will receive your assets? Identify those loved ones you wish to provide for in the event of your death. Often trust provisions for a surviving spouse and children are incorporated in estate planning. Think about under what circumstances you would want them to receive the assets. Identify a trustee who would oversee the assets for your beneficiaries.
- Don’t forget about estate taxes. The current federal estate tax exemption of $11 million (adjusted yearly for inflation) is scheduled to drop to $5 million in 2026. Depending on the November election and the economic cost of COVID-19 to the U.S. government, it is likely that the exemption amount will drop before then. Plan now to take advantage of the exemption while it still exists at its current level.
- Update your beneficiary designations. Do not overlook the beneficiaries of your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and any payable on death accounts. Often these can make or break your estate plan. Pull copies of your beneficiary designations and speak with your Burns & Levinson attorney to ensure they coordinate with your estate plan.
Use this time to get your estate planning house in order. Chances are you now have the time to think through the issues you have placed on the back burner for so long.
About the Author: Christine Fletcher
As a partner in and co-chair of the firm’s Private Client group, Christine Fletcher helps families plan for life’s transitions whether it is moving assets to the next generation, minimizing estate taxes or ensuring assets pass to intended recipients. Estate planning solutions can be simple, but like life, they can also be complicated. Issues arise with second marriages, divorce, blended families and unfortunate family crises. Christine listens to clients’ goals and develops plans for them that meet those goals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.345.3607.