Coronavirus/COVID-19 in California and Your Estate Plan.
We are in uncharted territories with the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope everyone is staying safe and isn’t dangerously affected by it even though it will clearly impact many.
We hesitated to write anything about the virus that related to estate planning because for most of us, even if we get sick, it will not lead to incapacity or death. However, after receiving several calls this week from perspective clients who were very concerned about creating or updating their estate plans due to the virus, we feel compelled to write about it.
While we are only licensed to practice estate planning and elder law in California, what we write applies to people who live in any state.
We are committed to helping people create and update estate plans to achieve three main purposes:
- Ensure your wishes get honored if you become incapacitated or when you pass away;
- Avoid the expense and emotional pain of going to court unnecessarily; and
- Maintain harmony in your family.
Sadly, the vast majority of estate plans we review will fail in at least one of these areas.
We view estate planning and elder law differently than other lawyers in the industry. Clearly, people hire lawyers for our expertise. We value a strong bond with our clients and build that through education, compassion, comprehensive analysis and counsel. We have learned, from our clients who have experienced other lawyers, that we are unique.
While we can’t give hugs right now, we are the attorneys you will want to hug (if you’re a hugger).
So why think of estate planning or elder law issues, especially now? Let’s walk through a typical life….
You’re 18 years old
You’ve turned 18 years old and you are thrilled to be an “adult.” Did you know that no one can make health care or finance decisions for you? Your estate plan should start now to create an AdvanceHealthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Finance. Can you imagine traveling or being in college (albeit not right now) and something happens and the doctors won’t talk to your parents? Needless to say, financial institutions will not speak to anyone other than the principal without a Power of Attorney. Can you imagine being that parent? Terrifying.
You have young kids
Now you’ve grown older and have young kids. God forbid, something happens to you and your spouse, who will take care of them? Imagine at the scene of a car crash (clearly, our examples are gruesome), who will care for your kids that day? You must have a Will that names a guardian and a temporary guardian too, just in case your permanent guardian is unavailable. If you both die, the court will appoint a guardian but without your wishes being documented in a Will, it could be a free for all battle in court. Then if you have no trust, your assets will be managed for the kids until they are 18 and then … they will inherit everything. Also, terrifying.
Can you image being that 18-year-old kid? No parents and you have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars or more? Sounds like a disaster. A well-drafted Trust will avoid that.
You’re approaching middle age
Let’s assume your kids are young adults in their 20’s and something happens to you. You might think they are capable of making decisions for you if you’re incapacitated or able to administer your trust and inherit your money and assets. Think again…
By this time, maybe you’ve accumulated some assets. Who will manage them until the kids are older? Your parents are getting older and maybe you are already taking care of them too. Siblings? Friends? Professionals? Surely your wishes have changed (and maybe the laws too) since you created your estate planning documents decades ago. It’s time for an update (if you haven’t done it already). We review our estate plans with our clients about every five years (or sooner if they want it).
Your kids are grown and you’re in your golden years
Maybe you realize that you need some help. Are you too proud to ask for it? Are you embarrassed that your mind doesn’t work the way it used to? Our community should revere older family members for your wisdom and experience. If we’re lucky, all of us will get there.
We understand that family dynamics can be challenging and that it’s hard to navigate the medical, legal and financial mazes. As we approach the age that we will surely need our documents, it’s certainly a good time to review them to make sure they reflect your current wishes and the current laws. Once we lose capacity, it is too late update them. For those estate planning documents that were created 10+ years ago, it’s critical to update them to reduce administration costs.
We have fabulous resources we trust to give you and your family.
If you’ve been thinking about creating or updating your estate plan, please call us and make getting yours done the silver lining of this horrible virus.
We would be honored to share our expertise with you that includes both the legal and reality perspectives to make sure your plan will work when you need it!
Remember, once you lose mental capacity, you cannot create or update your estate planningdocuments. Conservatorships and probate cost tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Give a gift to those you love; they will know your wishes and be able to honor them without court and causing WWIII in your family. Call us!