Estate Planning Overview in Light of COVID-19

Estate Planning Overview in Light of COVID-19

As much as we wish it was coming to an end, the unfortunate reality is that the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing and still affecting many of us in our daily lives. The uncertainty that comes along with living through a pandemic makes people feel helpless at a time when they want to be proactive. A common question I am asked in my practice is what my clients can do at a time when they are prevented from doing so much. My response usually comes down to one thing, which is extremely important and easy to accomplish: Estate Planning.

Estate Planning is an often overlooked necessity, no matter your age or financial situation. I know, based on personal experience, that most people believe they have lots of time before they need to worry about these things. Others believe that, because they are not independently wealthy, estate planning is not something they need to be concerned with. This is not true. Estate planning does not always deal with finances, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that tomorrow is not always guaranteed.

At O’Malley and Perry, we start out with three basic estate planning documents that we think are incredibly important to all individuals:

1. Last Will and Testament:

As most people know, your will outlines who will receive your assets after your death, but it does so much more than that. A will that is customized to fit your needs can outline specific wishes with regard to funeral proceedings and disposition of one’s body (burial, cremation, donation to educational institutions, etc.). It can specifically instruct your personal representative on your detailed wishes with each individual asset you own. Additionally, if you have minor children, having a valid will in Pennsylvania allows you to dictate who will raise them if something should happen to you, and how they will be provided for financially.

When someone dies without a will in Pennsylvania, one’s property is distributed according to Pennsylvania Intestacy Law, which is something most people are not familiar with, and which a lot of people may not prefer. For example, if you have a long-term partner to whom you are not married, have strong relationships with children who are not biologically your own, or have estranged family members, making a proper will is extremely important, as the Intestacy Law will not provide for those individuals.

2. Power of Attorney:

A durable power of attorney generally deals with finances. It is a document that gives someone the authority to essentially step into your shoes to handle your financial transactions. You can tailor it specifically to have power immediately, or to only give power to your agent if you should become incapacitated. Most importantly, having a Power of Attorney prevents a loved one from having to undergo Guardianship proceedings with the Court (and the costs that go along with it) if you should become incapacitated and unable to handle your financial affairs. It also allows you to designate an agent of your choosing, rather than having the court decide after you’ve become incapacitated.

3. Healthcare Power of Attorney/Advanced Directive:

An Advanced Directive (also known as a living will) is a document that allows you to choose what life sustaining measures you would prefer to be utilized during end of life care. Additionally, a healthcare power of attorney allows you to designate an agent to act for you in making medical care decisions if you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.

At O’Malley and Perry, we can help you make the choices that fit your lifestyle. Call us today to set up an appointment.



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