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Estate Planning in the Time of COVID

A couple of months back, during the height of COVID in the Northeast region, my brother-in-law noticed how one of his neighbors, he believed, had passed.  Since we were all still in lockdown mode he made the assumption that –since he had not seen his neighbor in many days and then suddenly the home was visited by an ambulance and then several cars, that was the case.  It turned out that he was correct, his neighbor who was in his late 60’s had succumbed to the virus.

More recently, however, he had learned that his neighbor was also dealing with planning issues and either never got around to it or didn’t want to address it.  He had a vacation home that was paid in full; however, he had a mortgage on his current home that he shared with his second wife.  He was struggling with current expenses and was behind on payments.  Worse yet, he had not updated his estate planning documents.  Upon his death, the vacation home would pass to his children outright while his current wife was left with the house with debt that she cannot afford on her own.

Earlier this year, one of my colleagues wrote a terrific blog post about the “Psychology of Estate Planning”.  In short, talking about how many individuals find it easier to procrastinate the planning, thinking they have time.   COVID and its ravages reminds us that we can’t predict when we will go and that we should take the steps now to plan and provide for our loved ones in the way we desire.
At a minimum, your will should be reviewed every few years to reflect our latest thinking and the ever changing laws that govern planning.  Some recommend this be an annual endeavor.  Marriages, divorces, births, change in assets and even change in thoughts are common reasons to review and change your will.

Revocable trust agreements, power of attorney, living wills should also be reviewed for potential change or update. Has there been a new addition to the family?  Did the amount of your wealth change so that you can no longer accomplish the same agenda as you had before?  Do you still think your 21 year old child can maturely handle the sudden onset of wealth?  Is there a new charitable organization that you wish to support?  Is college still in my granddaughter’s plans?  Do taxes or tax exemptions look like they may be going up (or down) in the near future?  What does the political outlook look like and does it possibly impact your estate plans?

These are all reasons to take a peek and review your documents.  Quite possibly you won’t have to change a thing.  At least you’ll have the peace of mind that your wishes and intentions will be carried out when the time comes.    Your attorney, Financial Advisor, CPA or your Trust Officer here at First State Trust Company can assist you in that review and perhaps can assist with answering some of your questions you may have.  If you haven’t created any of your estate planning documents, now is a great time to do so.  Perhaps the one thing that the COVID pandemic has given us is the free time to have the talks and ensure your plan is in order.

Please feel free to reach out to your Trust Officer should you have any questions on how to take the first step or any questions you may have about your plan.  You won’t regret it.

James Okamura, President
First State Trust Company

The posts expressed are views of FSTC and are not intended as advice or recommendations. For informational purposes only.  FSTC does not offer tax or legal advice, professional counsel should be sought for tax or legal advice.

Jim Okamura
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