Until recently, most Americans viewed estate planning as something to think about down the road. The outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel Coronavirus, has altered that view for many. Law firms and financial planners are reporting a significant increase in the number of clients seeking advice about wills and advance directives. There are many advantages for estate planning now. First and foremost, you can spare your loved ones the difficult task of debating your wishes should you pass away or become unable to communicate on your own.
Key Components of a Comprehensive Estate Plan
There are two types of documents in a comprehensive estate plan; those that govern decisions about your health and finances while you are still alive, and those that deal with matters after you pass away. In both instances, drafting these documents gives you the chance to specify your wishes in writing while you are healthy and able to do so. The following types of documents specify how you want your wishes carried out after you pass away:
- Last will and testament. Your will outlines how your property and other assets will be distributed after you die. If you have children or other dependents, you can also name guardians for them in your will.
- Trusts. You can create an irrevocable trust to transfer property or assets to a named beneficiary after you die. You can also set up a revocable trust that transfers property. Transferring your property into a trust may allow you to protect your assets from creditors or reduce your estate taxes. In both cases, property in a trust is not subject to the probate.
- Funeral planning. A funeral-planning memorandum can tell your family whether you want to be cremated or buried, who should be notified of your death, and what type of memorial service you would like, among other details.
The following documents take effect while you are still alive, but only after you have been incapacitated by illness or injury:
- Financial power of attorney. Also called a durable power of attorney, this document gives someone else the authority to manage your financial affairs.
- Health care proxy. This is an advanced directive that gives another person the power to make medical decisions if you are unable to do so on your own.
- Living will. A living will clearly spells out in writing if you do or do not want to be placed on life support.
Drawing Up an Estate Plan During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Meeting with a skilled attorney is the best way to draw up a comprehensive estate plan. Wills and other documents must typically be notarized in front of witnesses. However, given the importance of social distancing in slowing the spread of COVID-19, virtual consultations are an important option for estate planning. In addition, the state of Pennsylvania is now permitting remote notarization. For information about the logistical details of estate planning during the pandemic, view our recent blog.
Chester County Wills and Estates Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Provide Estate Planning Guidance During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The spread of COVID-19 in our area is reminding many about the importance of estate planning and advance directives. If you have been thinking about creating or revising your will or assigning a financial or medical power of attorney, the process will be easier with the help of a skilled Chester County wills and estates lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. For a confidential consultation, contact us online or call us at 610-565-3701. We serve clients throughout Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County from our offices in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania.