Creating an Estate Plan During Unusual Times

Between March and August 2020, the unemployment rate in the United States has remained above 10%. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has likely made it difficult to seek out legal or other services in your community. However, there are still ways to create an estate plan in an affordable and timely manner.

Something Is Likely Better Than Nothing

During normal times, you would want to have your will, trust or power of attorney document drafted and reviewed by an attorney. However, you can, generally, create these and other estate plan documents on your own. You could acquire and complete template documents online that are designed to broadly comply with state law. It is important to note that wills and other estate planning tools will generally need to be signed by one or more witnesses.

Consider What Your Estate Plan Should Accomplish

If you don’t want to create a will or trust until you can talk to an attorney, there are still steps that you can take toward creating your estate plan. For instance, you could create a list of goals that you want your plan to accomplish, such as providing for your kids or making sure assets are donated to charity.

You could also research whether a will or trust is the best tool for meeting your needs. In some ways, it can be a good idea to create both a will and a trust. A pour-over will ensures that all assets in your estate are placed in a trust when you die.

Typically, assets such as money in a life insurance policy or a bank account will be transferred through a beneficiary designation. Ideally, you will take time to consider who should receive these or similar assets, and if you designated a beneficiary when you opened an account, be sure to review your choice. This is because the terms of a beneficiary designation trump the language of a will or trust.

Finally, consider who might be most capable of serving as an estate representative or trustee. It may be a good idea to list more than one estate representative or trustee in case your first choice is unable or not willing to serve in such a capacity.

Have Conversations With Family Members

Family dynamics are perhaps the hardest part to manage when it comes to estate planning. If you’re a parent, you may struggle to decide how to divide your estate between your children. It might also be difficult to decide whether you want to leave property to a child with a drug problem or with whom you don’t have a particularly strong relationship.

One of the best ways to minimize the chances of family infighting or legal challenges after you pass is to explain your decisions now. While you don’t need to go into too much detail, it is important for family members to know what they are getting and why. Even if certain loved ones don’t agree with your decisions, they are more likely to respect them if they understand why they were made.

Talk to an Attorney By Phone or Online

If you are uncomfortable talking with a New Jersey tax attorney or estate planning attorney in-person due to the pandemic, you can still communicate by phone or through email. It’s also possible to have video chats with a legal representative to discuss the terms of your estate plan. You may be able to send copies of your will, trust or power of attorney forms electronically for review prior to this meeting or during the consultation.

While estate planning can be a complex process, it can also ensure that your voice is still heard if you pass away or become incapacitated. That’s why it’s important for all adults to have some kind of will or trust in place. Get help from a New Jersey tax attorney who can also assist with your estate plan needs by calling the Dopkin Law Firm in Cherry Hill at (215) 519-4269.