As the world struggles with the uncertainty of COVID-19, many are thinking about their estate plans for the first time in a long time.
Consider these tips to determine whether it is important to revisit your estate plan.
Have your guardians aged out?
For many young couples, selecting a guardian for their children is the most important aspect of their will.
When new parents execute wills for the first time, differing views on who should raise their children often result in defaulting to the children’s grandparents. Although it seems like a good solution when the children are young, grandparents inevitably get older and their circumstances change.
Another factor to consider is that once children become 10 years old, their main support system is often their friends, neighbors and school system, and no longer their aunts and uncles, especially those that reside out of town. Uprooting children could make a difficult time in their lives even harder.
How current are your power of attorney forms?
Powers of Attorney allow another person to make financial and medical decisions if you are unable to do so. The Illinois Property Power has been updated in recent years to take into account changes in the law relating to “digital assets,” and the form of Heath Care Power was updated by the state last year.
Although older forms are legally acceptable, a short-staffed hospital may instruct you to sign a new document on the spot, which is not ideal.
Power of Attorney decisions deserve thorough consideration and discussion with loved ones, and are best made well in advance of a medical crisis. Ensuring you have the most up-to-date form on file will prevent you from having to make important decisions under stressful circumstances.
Has your net worth changed?
With the volatility of the market and changes in the economy, coronavirus has drastically changed the net worth of many people.
Revisiting your plan may uncover charitable or other gifting provisions that are impractical or are no longer consistent with your goals for your family and other beneficiaries.
Now is the time to review these documents to realign and refocus the document’s intentions.
Have you reviewed your IRAs and Retirement Accounts?
It is important to confirm that the designated beneficiaries under these accounts are consistent with those in your overall plan. In addition, you should consider foregoing your required minimum distribution this year, as provided in the legislation recently passed by the Congress.
Do you need a notary?
The idea of getting documents notarized in today’s climate is problematic due to social distancing requirements.
However, on March 26, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order allowing for documents to be notarized in the state via video conference, provided a number of criteria are met.
Importantly, not all estate planning documents require notarization. For instance, a health care power of attorney requires only one witness. Although we generally have wills notarized to shortcut the Probate process, they only require two witnesses to be valid. In addition, in Illinois, trusts require neither witnesses nor a notary.
It is unfortunate that the current state of the world is causing people to consider their mortality. Addressing these issues now will ensure your loved ones are taken care of in the way you envisioned.
Robert Kaufman is a Trusts & Estates attorney with Fischel | Kahn.