Estate Planning During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Maxim Meyers

Whatever your plans were for 2020, chances are the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in them. Remote work is the new norm, parents are learning the art of distance learning, and social distancing is now commonplace. These are all things no one ever saw coming.

In a lot of ways, our new normal reminds us of estate planning in that we can never really predict how our lives will unfold. But taking steps to safeguard your wealth now is the best way to protect your family’s future—no matter what tomorrow brings.

There’s never been a more important time to revisit your estate plan. In light of the pandemic, here are some action items to consider.

Clarify Your Legacy Goals

Your estate plan is a powerful tool for making sure your values endure long after you’re gone. While thinking about our own mortality can feel heavy (and downright intimidating), clarifying your wishes now will eliminate heartache for our loved ones later down the line. The last thing you want is for your family to get caught up in untangling your assets from probate.

We encourage you to use this time to open the lines of communication with your loved ones, especially as COVID-19 continues to run its course. How will your assets, debts and financial responsibilities be managed should something unexpected happen to you? And if the unthinkable happens and you’re unable to advocate for yourself, who will do so on your behalf?

These are big questions, and working through them can feel like a lot to digest. At Octavia Wealth Advisors, we take a family-centered approach to help you navigate this terrain with confidence.

Get Organized and Take Action

If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that life can change at a moment’s notice. Once you’ve established your legacy goals, it’s time to shore them up.

  • Update your will and beneficiaries. While our country is indeed flattening the coronavirus curve, the pandemic isn’t over yet. It’s never been more important to revisit your will and beneficiaries, including contingent beneficiaries, to make sure they still reflect your wishes. If they don’t, the right financial advisor can help you make a plan for the distribution of your assets. With regard to beneficiaries, look beyond your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Consider assets like your brokerage and bank accounts.
  • Consider setting up a revocable living trust. The beauty of a revocable trust is that it’s settled outside of probate upon your death. This makes them an attractive estate planning tool because they streamline things for your loved ones. In the here and now, you can modify the trust whenever you like. Want to adjust how your assets will ultimately be distributed? Or add or drop a beneficiary? A revocable living trust makes this possible.
  • Think about powers of attorney. There are two layers to consider: your durable financial power of attorney and your health care power of attorney. Again, no one ever wants to think about being unable to make these kinds of decisions for themselves, but COVID-19 is forcing us to take a closer look. If you were unconscious and needed a ventilator to survive, would it be considered a form of excluded artificial life support? Having a power of attorney you trust should help you sleep better at night.
  • Make plans for minor children. This goes without saying, but you’ll also want to plan ahead for any underage children in your care. Connect with whoever you’d like to assume custody if the worst-case scenario played itself out. Are they onboard and willing to take on the responsibility?
  • Protect your business. If you own a business, it’s probably a safe bet that you’ve put a lot of heart (and money) into it. Take the time to communicate with your business partners and shareholders about what will happen if any of you are directly affected by the pandemic. Is there a plan in place to protect the business if you become unable to carry out your duties? There’s no room for gray area here.
  • Don’t forget about digital assets. It’s easy for things like domain names, social media accounts, and electronically stored photos and videos to fall through the estate planning cracks. Look forward and plan for your digital assets so that accessing them will be easy for your loved ones when the time comes. Start by backing up your data and cataloging important passwords.

Fine-tuning your estate plan is a deeply personal undertaking. At Octavia Wealth Advisors, we’re devoted to our partnerships. We’re here to walk this path with you as we create a legacy plan that reflects your values—and preserves your wealth far into the future. Drop us a line to update your estate plan together.