COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus have turned life as we know it upside down. With more than a quarter of a million cases in Florida and more than 16,000 in Orange County alone, this virus has many of us thinking about our mortality and long and short-term estate plans. If you are considering revising your estate plans, we’ll walk through some things you should consider during this trying time.
When Should You Revise Your Estate Plans?
Whenever you have a significant life change, it’s a good idea to revisit your estate plan. Significant life changes can include:
Your marriage, separation, or divorce
The adoption of a child, grandchild, or great-grandchild
The death of your spouse or another close family member
Your retirement or your spouse’s retirement
Receiving a significant gift or an inheritance
A substantial increase or decrease in the size of your assets
Selling your home or vacation home
Your illness or disability or the illness or disability of your spouse or a close family member.
It’s also a good idea to review your estate plan whenever there are significant state or federal legislative changes related to income tax or the estate tax.
Creating and Revising Your Estate Plan
When you are reviewing your estate plan, it’s good to create any documents that may be missing from your overall plan. You can also update guardians for any minor or disabled children that you have.
· Will or Living Trust:
A will can give you control over what happens with your estate when you pass away. It’s your chance to declare your wishes for your assets and wealth officially. In the absence of a will, Florida law and the courts will determine how to distribute your assets.
A living trust is another good estate planning option. While you are alive, you create the trust and pass your assets on to the trust. You can continue to use your assets as you wish during your lifetime, and then distribute them from the trust upon your death. The advantage of a living trust is that your assets in the trust can avoid probate after your death, which can be a lengthy and expensive process. Because of some unique aspects of Florida trusts and estates law, you should consult your attorney to see if you can include your home in your living trust.
· Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney grants someone you trust the ability to make decisions for you if you are mentally incapacitated. The person or organization you name in a financial power of attorney can continue to manage your financial affairs. At the same time, a medical power of attorney can allow someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
· Medical Directives
A medical directive can encompass several documents, including a health care proxy, a power of attorney, a living will, and medical instructions. All of these documents can designate someone you trust to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated. A living will can provide instructions on when to provide or withdraw life support. In contrast, a broader medical directive can provide instructions for your care if you are less seriously ill but still unable to make decisions about your medical care.
· Update Your Designated Beneficiaries
When revising your estate plan, you should also ensure that the beneficiaries you’ve named on your retirement plan, life insurance policies, and other accounts are up to date.
Gaining Peace of Mind
While thinking about what could happen during a worldwide pandemic can be scary and stressful, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’ve addressed what could happen and made your wishes known for yourself, your assets, and the people you love.
If you need help creating or revising an estate plan during this stressful time, we can help. Contact us. At Veliz Katz Law, our first concern is helping our clients get the support and legal services they need.