Last March we labeled all of the following unprecedented: working from home, all work conducted in a remote environment, a relaxed dress code, attendance at client meetings via web, and now, months later, we consider these activities to be the way we conduct business and maintain relationships.
It is close to impossible to talk about a strategy recipe for all businesses. Still, companies saw positives in this new reality: adapting fast to new limitations, mitigating the harmful effects of the COVID-19, and exploring new opportunities.
A client of ours, Dan, 62, of Baton Rouge, plays piano in a band at church on the weekends. He and his wife, Mary, 56, also enjoy riding motorcycles for leisure. They know how to have a good time, but they have lived enough to know when to take life seriously.
Last year, this couple saw the wife of one their best friends get sick and pass away. “I remember how painful it was for them while she was on her deathbed, having attorneys in there doing estate plans for the two of them,” he says. “I would never want that, and now the situation with COVID made me realize it’s probably a good time to get ahead of that sort of thing.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 a nightmare for many people around the world, and inadequate estate planning can exacerbate the pain. Having a will and estate plan is important for everyone, but it is crucial as you approach retirement. You will probably have more assets at this stage of your life, and it is important to consider who you would like to inherit them. You will also want to be certain that your spouse and family will be well taken care of if anything happens to you.
The Importance of Estate Planning
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about estate planning, including the idea that only wealthy or elderly people need to worry about such matters. In reality, estate planning can have significant benefits whether you are single or married, working or retired, enjoying parenthood or planning to remain childfree.
The COVID-19 situation is a powerful reminder that everyone, regardless of their circumstances, should plan for the potential for serious illness and incapacity. Failing to adequately plan can cause confusion, stress, loss of control, and financial setbacks for your family and friends. Without an estate plan, you are leaving things up to chance and the strict control of probate courts.
On the other hand, taking time to prepare for the future can make a difficult transition significantly easier for your loved ones, while providing you with peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.
Estate planning is a powerful opportunity to:
• Distribute your assets in an appropriate manner — Whether you want to decide who gets your home or pass down a precious family heirloom, preparing an estate plan can allow you to distribute your assets in the manner that you wish when you are no longer around—while also ensuring that someone you can rely on is appointed to handle your assets and affairs. If you do not plan for the distribution of your assets as part of your estate plan, the decisions of who will receive your property and administer your estate fall to the courts, and out of your control. In other words? If you do not make a plan, the state of Louisiana will make a plan for you — and that may ultimately mean that your assets will be distributed in a way that does not account for your unique personal circumstances and goals.
“Taking time to prepare for the future can make a difficult transition significantly easier for your loved ones, while providing you with peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out.”
LAURA C. POCHÉ
Author & Estate Planning
and Administration Attorney
• Protect your children and beneficiaries — If you have children in your care, an important estate planning consideration will be naming a guardian who will protect and raise them if you are unable to do so. Your estate plan can also make provisions for your children’s financial future — from appointing someone to help manage their finances until they come of age, to creating a Trust that can help ensure that their inheritance does not become a detriment. In addition to your children, you can set up your estate plan to help provide care and support for all of the most important parties in your life, including your partner, adults or minors with special needs, and even your pets.
• Minimize family disagreements and conflicts — Losing a family member is a difficult and stressful time even under the best of circumstances. It can be made all the more fraught when family arguments and disagreements pop up. Estate, Will, and Trust contests often put family members in opposition to each other, which can drag out the estate administration process and become expensive and emotional for everyone involved. Taking steps to prepare a thorough and comprehensive estate plan can help prevent disagreements among family after you are gone, making this tough transition easier for them to navigate—while also giving you peace of mind right now, knowing that you minimized the burdens for your loved ones in the future.
• Direct how you will be treated if you become incapacitated — Estate planning is not just about thinking about what will happen after you are gone; it is also about setting down guidance for when you are unable to speak on your own behalf due mental and/or physical incapacity. While it can be unpleasant to think about, it is important to plan for the very real possibility of becoming incapacitated. Every day, people fall victim to unexpected accidents and the threat of critical illness. These unfortunate situations can be incredibly difficult for your loved ones and may call for quick thinking and immediate action. Preparing for incapacity can help ensure that you get the care you need, while putting safeguards and supports in place for your loved ones. In contrast, if you do not plan ahead for incapacity, you will not have any say in who will make financial or health care decisions for you, and your loved ones may be subject to the process of the “living” probate process, also known as “interdiction”.
• Save time, money, and stress by avoiding probate — “Probate” is often used as a catch-all to refer to the court process through which a person’s property is gathered and distributed after they pass away. In Louisiana, we call this court process “succession.” Depending on your circumstances, the probate process can either be long and arduous or quick and painless. Even in the best of circumstances, there are monetary and time costs associated with probate, which can quickly become significant.
In these uncertain times, do not put off taking care of those you love and that which you have worked hard for. ACT NOW! Believe it or not, the legal estate planning process is very satisfying and empowering. To know that you are doing everything that you possibly can do to take care of yourself and those you love during life and after death brings you peace of mind and certainty. Estate planning is a meaningful way to take action—and it is a process that you can begin right now, even from the safety and comfort of your own home.
If you want to know how to create a well thought out and comprehensive estate plan in just 5-7 weeks, call me, Laura Poche’, at the Poche’ Estate Planning Law Firm at 225-224-8099. I invite you to attend one of our free educational events where I will break down this seemingly overwhelming process into very easy to understand steps and shepherd you from A to Z. Our law firm prides itself for being YOUR LEGAL COMPASS TO LIFE!