As we hunker down during COVID-19, here are seven tips to make sure your estate plan is in good health:
1. Make Sure Your Basics Are Covered
At a minimum, every adult should have a Will, Power of Attorney for Health Care, Power of Attorney for Property and HIPAA Designation. Parents of minor children should be certain their Wills include guardianship provisions and should also consider signing a document to grant a non-guardian temporary authority to make healthcare decisions for minor children if the need arises. Preparing these foundational documents now grants you and your loved ones peace of mind in the event the unthinkable happens.
2. Review Your Plan
For clients with existing estate plans, now is a great time to review your plan and make sure it reflects your wishes. Illinois residents with revocable or irrevocable trusts should work with their attorney to confirm their documents are consistent with the recently adopted Secure Act and Illinois Trust Code. Pursuant to Illinois Governor Pritzker's Executive Order 2020-14, estate planning documents can safely be executed, witnessed and notarized via video conference during the COVID-19 pandemic.
3. Review Beneficiary Designations
Make sure your beneficiary designations on retirement, brokerage and life insurance accounts are up to date. If you have a trust, work with your attorney to confirm your assets are properly titled in your trust.
4. Be Wary of Online Tools
In the wake of the pandemic, the New York Times reported that many Americans are using online legal tools to draft estate planning documents. If you have used such a tool to draft your estate planning documents or are considering such a tool, think twice. It is not uncommon for documents drafted using online tools to fail to meet clients’ needs and fail to satisfy statutory requirements for validity. If you have used an online drafting tool, reach out to your attorney for a quick document review that could save you a considerable headache down the road.
5. Be Forward Thinking Regarding Logistics
Make sure key people (i.e. your next of kin and nominated agents and executor/trustee) know you have an estate plan in place and know where such documents are stored, and how to access them quickly. Do not store Power of Attorney documents in a safety deposit box and utilize your attorney’s secure client vault.
6. Get Organized
Use this checklist to create a comprehensive list of important information, accounts and passwords. Make sure key people know where to find the list as well as the passcode to any digital password manager you use.
If your Will or Trust does not contain a provision relating to digital assets, talk to your family members about expectations regarding the use of your social media accounts after your death. Some social media platforms such as Facebook allow users to designate a “legacy contact” who can make decisions about your account after your death.
7. Take Advantage of Low-Interest Rates
In light of the recent downturn in the market and low-interest rates, now is a good time for clients with taxable estates to consider implementing advanced estate planning techniques that leverage low-interest rates in order to transfer wealth to future generations with little or no gift tax.
Whether it’s answering a quick question, drafting estate planning documents or overhauling your existing documents, HMB’s Private Client, Trusts and Estate Team can help you in this time of uncertainty so you can focus on living well. We are available via email, telephone and video conferencing to assist you and documents can be drafted and emailed to you for review or delivered to you by mail or a tracked delivery service. Please reach out to your HMB team member with questions.