3 Tips for Estate Planning During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has been a wakeup call for everyone. Many residents of Southeastern Massachusetts have seen their financial security disrupted. Others have realized that they are not prepared for long-term incapacity should they contract the coronavirus. The coronavirus pandemic has shown that estate planning isn’t just for older individuals or just the wealthy. Every person over the age of 18 should have a basic estate plan that includes key foundational documents.

1. Create a Massachusetts Power of Attorney and Health Care Proxy

Creating a power of attorney is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself during a pandemic. A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to choose an agent to act on your behalf if you are unable to make financial and legal decisions for yourself due to becoming incapacitated. 

The coronavirus is still infecting people throughout the country. People of all ages have ended up in intensive care units, sometimes for weeks. A Health Care Proxy is a simple document that allows you to select an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. We also suggest creating an advance directive (also known as a living will). Even though Massachusetts doesn’t recognize advance directives as legally binding documents, it does allow you to tell your health care agent, your physicians and your loved ones your wishes, including what types of intervention you would approve in life-threatening situations. 

Making decisions about incapacitation is often emotionally challenging, especially during these uncertain times while facing the coronavirus. Knowing that you’ve selected a person you trust to make important decisions for you should you become incapacitated can help you significantly. 

2. Correctly Designate Beneficiaries on Your Financial Accounts

Financial assets, such as IRAs, 401(k)s, and other mutual fund accounts will ask you to designate a beneficiary should you pass away. These beneficiary designations can supersede what you have written on a will. For example, if you designated your ex-wife as the beneficiary of your 401(k) and forgot to update the account after getting re-married, your ex-wife will inherit the assets in your 401(k). 

The same principle applies to real estate. If you are married, our attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski, PC can help you arrange for legal instruments that will allow your home to transfer on death to your spouse. The designation on the deed of your home is extremely important and should reflect what you’d like to happen to your home after you’re gone. 

3. Create a Trust-Based Estate Plan

In some cases, a trust-based estate plan is more helpful. After reviewing your financial situation and learning about your goals, we can guide you toward either a will-based estate plan or a trust-based estate plan. There are many different types of trusts you can use for your estate plan. We’ll help you select a trust or trusts that best meets your needs. When our clients are in the following situations, a trust-based estate plan may work best for them:

  • Second marriages with blended families
  • Properties owned outside of Massachusetts
  • Family-owned businesses or properties
  • Spouses or adult children who will need ongoing lifelong care
  • Adult children who face addiction challenges

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Lawyers Today

At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we act as a team to help provide excellent estate planning services for our clients. We have all been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and our goal is to help residents of Southeastern Massachusetts prepare for the future through estate planning. We are offering online consultations as well as scheduled, in-person visits. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. 

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.