Personal Considerations in the Wake of COVID-19
March 25, 2020
By Karen L. Goldberg
The nightmare called COVID-19 is a wakeup call to everyone, reminding us of our own mortality and what that could mean for our families if we don’t have up-to-date estate planning documents, including a power of attorney and health care directive. The estate tax law is constantly changing, so if you don’t have a recent will (or any will), your property may not pass to your intended heirs and even if it does, it may not be in the form you want, such as in trust. More importantly, if you have minor children, this raises important questions: Do you have a will that designates who you want to act as their guardian? Will they inherit your property in trust, rather than outright?
You should also review your beneficiary designations on certain assets (e.g., life insurance, retirement plans). Such assets will pass by operation of law to the named beneficiary and if the beneficiary isn’t current, the asset could end up in the hands of an unintended beneficiary, such as your former spouse.
In addition to the above, having a power of attorney and health care proxy is critical because if you fall ill, they permit another person designated by you to make important decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney permits your designated agent to manage your property including making financial and business decisions on your behalf. A health care proxy permits your designated agent to make health care decisions if you are unable to do so. Typically, your spouse is the agent, but if you are unmarried, perhaps one or more of your children or a sibling should be that agent.
It’s an unfortunate reality, but many times individuals and families fail to address these matters until a crisis or tragedy arises. It’s critically important to your family and your legacy to consider these matters on an ongoing basis as a few small adjustments to your current estate plan could make all the difference for your and your family’s future.