The Coronavirus Crisis & Estate Planning: Are You Prepared?
The coronavirus outbreak and panic that is present in Florida and the entire country has many who put off estate planning now wondering what they should do, quickly, in order to make sure that everything is in order; should the unthinkable happen, especially if they have young children. Indeed, as estate planning attorneys who have been practicing here in Florida for years, we have received a number of calls from individuals, families, and business owners seeking appointments within the last few weeks to either establish an estate plan or make sure that what they have in place is up-to-date.
While we have previously discussed how to make sure your estate plan is “Doomsday Ready,” the coronavirus appears to be striking in unimaginable ways, and the U.S. is still lacking in essential supplies such as masks, tests, and vaccines. As a result, having particular elements of an estate plan ready to go is now more important than ever.
If You Own a Business
While new information and updates on the virus and which segments of the population it affects seem to emerge every day, we know for sure that it seems to be particularly dangerous for those over the age of 55. As a result, the virus may affect a number of business owners in particular, who should make sure that they have a succession plan in place in the event of incapacity and/or death.
A Durable Power of Attorney
Families should also make sure that they have a Durable Power of Attorney in case key decision makers in the household become ill or otherwise incapacitated and cannot make important financial decisions, pay bills, etc. A durable power of attorney allows you to designate someone that you trust to make these important decisions and provides them with access to your accounts so that they can carry out the corresponding transactions. Still, because this person has so much power and access, you not only want to make sure that it is someone you trust, but that you set up the paperwork appropriately with an experienced estate planning attorney.
An Advance Directive and health Care Surrogate Designation
You also want to make sure that you have an Advance Directive and health care surrogate designated. An Advance Directive allows you to specifically list what treatment you do and do not want in the event that you lose the ability to make those decisions for yourself, while a health care surrogate designation provides you with the ability designate someone that you trust to make important health care-related decisions for you – and discuss these treatments – in case you become incapacitated.
Making sure that your beneficiary designations are up to date for important accounts such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and life insurance policies is also very important, especially if you have been married and divorced and an ex could still be listed on any of these accounts. In addition, due to the nature of this virus, you will also want to ensure that you have a remote contingent beneficiary designated, i.e. a “Plan C” in case x, y, or z happens as a result of the virus (for example, if the fourth person in line to inherit passes, “then x assets goes to y charity,” etc.).
Your estate planning attorney can also assist you with other very important decisions, such as ensuring that assets are not placed in joint names such that whomever inherits them could be vulnerable if they get sued or in terms of inheritance capital gains taxes. Finally, everyone, at a minimum, should have lists of all of their important accounts, bills that get paid regularly, contact information for attorneys, accountants, and important passwords assembled and stored in a safe place.
Contact Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys with Any Questions
For any information, questions, consultations, or other needs when it comes to estate planning here in Florida, contact our experienced Sarasota wills & probate attorneys at Suncoast Civil Law today to find out how we can help.