The Covid-19 pandemic has brought estate planning front and center to many people who would otherwise dismiss it as something they would get to at some point in the future, says the article “Estate and Life Insurance Considerations During the Covid-19 Pandemic” from Bloomberg Tax. Many don’t have a frame of reference to address the medical, legal, financial, and insurance questions that now need to be addressed promptly. They’ve never experienced anything like today’s world. The time to get your affairs in order is now.
What will happen if we get sick? Will we recover? Completely? Who will take care of us and make legal decisions for us? What if a family member is in an assisted living facility and is incapacitated? All of these “what if” questions are now pressing concerns. Now is the time to review all legal, insurance, and financial plans, and take into consideration two new laws: the SECURE Act and the CARES Act.
An experienced estate planning attorney who focuses on estate planning will save you an immense amount of money. Bargain hunters be warned: a small mistake or oversight in an estate plan can lead to expensive consequences. A competent legal professional is the best investment.
Here’s an example of what can go wrong: A person names two minor children—under age 18—as beneficiaries on their IRA account, life insurance policy or bank account. The person dies. Minors are not permitted to hold title to assets. Minors in New York are considered wards of the court in need of protection and court supervision. Therefore, in this state, the result of the beneficiary designation means that a special Surrogate’s Court proceeding will need to occur to have a pecuniary guardian appointed for the minors, even if the applicant is their custodial guardian.
Another “what if?” is the support for a disabled or special needs beneficiary who may be receiving government support. If the parents are gone, who will care for their disabled child? What if there are not enough assets in the estate to provide supplemental financial support, in addition to the government benefits? Life insurance can be used to fund a special needs trust to ensure that their child will not be dependent upon family or friends to care for their needs. However, if there is no special needs trust in place, an inheritance may put the child’s government support in jeopardy.
Here are the core estate planning documents to be prepared:
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Living Trust
- Durable General Power of Attorney
- Health Care Declaration
The SECURE Act changed the rules regarding inherited IRAs. With the exception of a surviving spouse and a few other exempt individuals, the required minimum distributions must be taken within a ten- year time period. This causes an additional income tax liability for future generations. There are strategies to reduce the impact, but they require advance planning with the help of an estate planning attorney.
Reference: Bloomberg Tax (June 18, 2020) “Estate and Life Insurance Considerations During the Covid-19 Pandemic”