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Estate Planning as COVID-19 Continues: What You Need to Know Thumbnail

Estate Planning as COVID-19 Continues: What You Need to Know

Dara Cohen is an estate planning attorney at D.R. Cohen Law, LLC. Dara is a great resource for our practice and clients when it comes to estate planning. We appreciate Dara's candid approach when it comes to determining if and when a client needs an estate plan.

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, we are thinking about worst-case-scenarios for our families, disabling illnesses, and mortality.  Is this the right time to create your estate plan?   

 If you didn’t need an estate plan before, you probably don’t need one now.

 If a person does not own real estate, does not have dependents, has beneficiary designations on all financial assets, and is not concerned about incapacity planning, they do not need an estate plan.  Estate planning is less urgent than for someone with more complex assets or dependents that would be at risk. 

 But everyone should have an Advanced Health Care Directive.

 Everyone should have an Advanced Health Care Directive.   Utah’s standardized AHCD is easy to complete without an attorney.   It allows you to name an agent who makes medical decisions for you if you cannot communicate and makes end-of-life medical decisions.

After deciding you need an estate plan, start by understanding the difference between a Will and a Trust.

A Will is a one-time distribution of your assets when you die.  All assets controlled by a Will must pass through the Probate Court.  A Will costs less now and more when you die.

A Revocable Trust is a metaphorical shoebox into which you transfer your assets now.  You, as Trustee, manage and control your Trust while you are alive and have capacity.   When you are incapacitated or dead, the “shoebox” slides to your Successor Trustee who manages assets for your benefit and distributes assets to your heirs.  A Trust costs more now and saves both time and money later when you are incapacitated or dead.

Consider the services offered by your attorney, including remote sessions and Trust Funding.

Ask if your attorney provides remote sessions and/or home visits to minimize the need for unnecessary trips outside the home.  

Ask if your attorney provides Trust Funding - transferring assets into your Trust and updating your beneficiary designations.   This additional legal service eliminates your need to visit financial institutions, brokers, insurance agents, and the County Recorder.

Revisit your existing estate plan to ensure it reflects your wishes and conforms to new laws.

If you already have an estate plan in place, revisit the documents every 2-3 years to review your heirs and the people you appointed to carry out your wishes.

Tax law changes in 2018 and 2019 altered estate tax limits and distributions from retirement accounts after the account owner dies.  These changes could impact your estate which may need updating.