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Estate Planning in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

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Written by Barbara M. Kristiansson
Posted Mar 13, 2020

Last night, my son, with all of his 17 years of experience and wisdom said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”  I haven’t either.  Even my 95 year old grandfather can only remember his parents’ stories about the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918.  I don’t tend to jump on panic bandwagons (although I will admit to picking up a few extra cans of soup during my last Target run).  But I do believe in being prepared; and being in the midst of a global pandemic should encourage all of us to make sure that our estate plans are in order.

Below are a few key items you should review pertaining to your estate plan.  If you don’t have an estate plan, now would be a good time to think about putting one in place.

  • Review your current documents to make sure that the people you have named for positions like your Personal Representative, Trustee, Power of Attorney, Health Care Agent, and if you have minor children – Guardian, are still the right individuals for those jobs.
  • Review who is listed to receive the assets of your estate. Do the individuals listed and the amounts each will receive still reflect your wishes?
  • Does your Health Care Directive express your health and end of life decisions?
  • Is someone receiving assets from your estate outright (i.e. not in a trust) but probably shouldn’t? Perhaps because they have a chemical dependency issue, serious mental health issue, pending divorce, are receiving government benefits or other reason that would prevent them from managing the inheritance in a responsible manner.
  • If you have a Revocable Trust, are your assets properly titled in the name of the Trust?
  • Do retirement accounts and life insurance policies have beneficiary designations in place, and do they still reflect your wishes? Most attorneys will include recommendations on how assets should be titled and wording for beneficiary destinations.  Now is a good time to review those recommendations and make sure they have been implemented.
  • If your estate plan was prepared before 2017, you may want to review your estate plan to make sure that the proper estate tax provisions are included in your plan. If your estate is worth more than $3M (and are a Minnesota resident), then you should revisit whether the proper estate tax provisions are included in your plan.  If you have less than $3M (and are a Minnesota resident) and your estate plan includes “tax savings” provisions, you may want to visit with your estate planning attorney to explore removing those provisions and simplifying your plan.
  • If you have large amounts held in a retirement account, you should consider reaching out to your estate planning attorney or tax preparer to discuss the possible impact the new SECURE Act may have on you and those who will inherit your retirement account.

When in doubt, call your estate planning attorney.  Each situation is unique, and each estate plan needs to be tailored to match.  Please know that we are here to assist you with your estate planning needs. Our firm has a business contingency plan in place that should allow us to continue assisting you, even if our attorneys and staff can no longer be physically present in the office.

Learn More about Messerli Kramer’s Attorneys Barbara M. Kristiansson
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