Interest in Estate Planning Spikes During COVID-19

With the unpredictability of the covid-19 pandemic, many adults are increasingly focusing on their end-of-life plans. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many Americans to start thinking about their future and how things will look once they are gone, both in terms of estate planning or retirement diversification.

For some, estate planning is something for the future and may be seen as a last priority. Preparing documents, establishing care orders or wishes for hospitalization, and planning for other end of life arrangements are sometimes pushed off because people believe they still have plenty of time. However, with the almost daily coverage of death tolls from the novel coronavirus, as well as the extreme disruption to normal life, people are starting to prioritize their estate planning needs.

Due to the continuing pandemic, estate lawyers are seeing a spike in their number of clients. There has been an increase in the urgency clients feel about their asset arrangements. In addition, there have been changes in how documents must be prepared to respect social distancing laws in courthouses. An increased interest in estate planning has encouraged many to inform themselves on what estate planning is and how they can start the process.

What is Estate Planning?

Even though the language seems somewhat outdated, most people have what is considered to be an estate. A person’s estate consists of everything they own, from their car, house, and valuables to less tangible items like investments, life insurance, and other financial components. No matter how large or small the estate, it will inevitably have to be distributed after a person’s death – which is where estate planning comes in.

Estate planning is simply a plan made to dictate how assets will be distributed after an individual dies. It could be as simple as a will created by the deceased and an attorney that states how assets will be disbursed upon a person’s death. Or, it could be a complex document that specifies the wishes, desires, and intentions of a person in a variety of situations. 

“One of the main reasons people pursue their own estate plans is that, if they do not have one, the state has one in place that may not be favorable for you,” explains Trusts and Estates Attorney Kerri Castellini. “Without a will or other document that details what will happen with the elements of the estate, the default laws of the jurisdiction where you live are used to determine who has priority to serve as the executor of the estate and how the estate will be distributed. This can become expensive and time consuming, not to mention it isn’t specified to your situation and family, so many people chose to make an estate plan.”

For all families, estate planning should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event or creation. An estate plan should be reviewed and updated as families, financial situations, or life changes. Furthermore, estate planning can be beneficial to anyone, not just those looking to retire soon or those with large estates. With current events in mind, it may be helpful to look into estate planning to ensure that, should the worst happen, loved ones are taken care of. 

Why Should Someone Start Planning Their Estate Now?

When it comes to estate planning, a person can never start too early. From young people to the recently retired, from laid-off employees to front-line essential workers, securing an individual’s asset distribution and directives in an emergency could ease the mind. Not only does estate planning give an individual the state of mind that those they love will have claim to their estate, should anything happen to them, but it can set the groundwork for preparing for emergency situations.

Much of estate planning is creating a group of documents to prepare for when the unexpected happens so that loved ones are not left scrambling to take care of matters in a way that will respect what the deceased would have wanted. Power of attorney, guardianship designations, a will or trust, and medical directives are just a few examples of the documents that an attorney could help an individual establish.

One of the main hurdles to overcome with estate planning is the idea that this matter is only for older individuals who are close to death. Instead, many attorneys would like people to view estate planning and the included documents as security blankets for any age person.

How Coronavirus has Shifted Interests in Estate Planning

Coronavirus has drastically changed the lives of millions of Americans. Whether by loss of life or something else, this pandemic is redefining life for many in a way that may be permanent. The new normal presented by the novel coronavirus is also impacting how people are planning for the future, and forcing them to determine what is important to them. With more time to think, and a future that looks uncertain, people are examining their options for their estate to ensure that their wishes are carried out in the event of illness.  

Estate planning is the best way to mitigate issues in the future. People may put off estate planning because they feel they do not own enough assets or property, they are not old enough, they are too busy, or for a variety of other reasons. However, as the current pandemic shows, life can be unpredictable and change very quickly. So, while it may seem like a daunting task to start in these unprecedented times, pursuing legal help sooner rather than later could be beneficial.

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