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6 Estate Planning Strategies Following COVID-19

For most people, us in Houston included, living through the coronavirus pandemic has left us weary yet ready to tackle any challenge that comes our way.

This pandemic was completely unexpected a year and a half ago. There was so much uncertainty and stress, as we had never dealt with a pandemic of this nature in our lifetime before. First came the shock, then the isolation, and finally, the grief.

At this point, millions of people have lost loved ones without being able to say goodbye. There was also the grief of families being separated, unable to attend key events and missing their loved ones in general.

Over eighteen months later, we are still not out of the woods.

We have used our estate planning expertise to collate our best advice to help you and your family plan for the future and finish strong through these difficult times.

 

1. Don’t Try to Do It Alone

We have all been told to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus. The message has been loud and clear that we should work from home if possible, only reach out in absolute emergencies, and try not to mix with others without appropriate precautions.

Sadly, when you are grieving or facing a challenging situation, being alone is the last thing that experts usually advise.

Now that we are a year and a half into the pandemic, many businesses have adapted and are ready to welcome you with open arms, ours included. Businesses are putting health and safety first by providing hand sanitizer, masks, and screens. With these precautions in place, there is no reason not to get the help you need. If you could benefit from talking to somebody, there is no reason to hesitate.

Here at Hegwood Law Group, we believe that looking after our clients is truly a team effort. We can also point you in the direction of other professional services available in the Greater Houston area, such as counselors or therapists. We have been in the estate planning and elder law field for a long time, and we have seen our share of clients who needed help from other professionals.

We recognize that, if you have never needed help like this before, it can be daunting to step into the unknown. Sometimes all you need is to connect with others who understand.

 

2. Remember Experts Are Still Here to Help

COVID-19 has moved many of our activities online: family game nights, church services, work meetings, even weddings and funerals have been watched through the screen. It would be tempting to seek your legal advice online, too.

However, as with most things in life, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing properly. While some services can be done online with no issue, using an online service to create your estate plan is not one of them.

We have seen an increase in advertisements offering generic legal services online, but be wary of websites that can promise to have your estate plan done for you – you never know who is doing the work. And if you do not have any experience in estate planning, you never know what the quality of their work could be or whether it will even work in the eyes of the law.

For your estate plan to truly be tailored to your needs and be executed correctly, your attorney will need to understand certain nuances about your family and personal circumstances. No two people have the same assets, wishes, healthcare needs, or living situations, so it is important that your estate plan is tailored to you.

Our law firm remained open throughout the pandemic to continue offering our services, as many people realized the importance of having a plan during unprecedented and unknown times. We continue to offer our strategy sessions via Zoom and phone call, as well as in person, so our clients have the option to meet with us in the way that they are comfortable.

 

3. You Might Need to Make Decisions That Were Not Relevant Before

If your children are still minors, you might feel that it is not necessary for you to make an estate plan just yet. You may think there is still room for changes in the future, such as having more children, grandchildren, or moving.

While you might be waiting for your family to be complete before creating an exhaustive plan, there are certain decisions that you must not put off.

One such decision is Guardianship, which is a way of notifying the court of who you would like to take care of your children should you and your partner become incapacitated or pass away.

Having a Designation of Guardian in place means that you do not have to wait for the court to make any decisions for you. These decisions may not have been decisions you wanted to make in the first place, as the court may choose someone you do not want to be the guardian of your children. A Designation of Guardian eliminates this uncertainty and removes the need for the often slow-moving court process.

 

4. Check Your Life Insurance Policy

The coronavirus pandemic has also brought along changes to the life insurance industry. Do not be afraid to get in touch with your insurer to go through your policy with you and see if any changes need to be made. Keep in mind that sufferers of long COVID may have a yet unknown impact on policies as well.

 

5. You Are Never Too Young to Start Estate Planning

At this stage of the pandemic, the most vulnerable people should have been vaccinated. Anyone who has been infected and recovered has antibodies.

Scientists are warning that the virus is making its way towards those who previously had to worry least about becoming seriously ill – young people.

Although college kids are not our usual clientele, we continue to encourage anyone over the age of 18 to begin their estate plan. If there is anything that the pandemic has taught the public, it is that you can never be too complacent or too prepared.

More and more, parents are encouraging their youngsters to meet with estate planning lawyers so they are not left at the mercy of the courts if they become seriously ill.

Durable powers of attorney are open to people of any age, and they ensure that your bank accounts can be accessed if you are unable to manage your finances for a period of time.

Advanced health directives allow young people to ensure their care is personalized and meets their wishes, although we hope it will never come to that.

 

6. Don’t Put Pressure on Yourself to Get a Perfect Estate Plan the First Time

As well as bringing unwanted changes to our physical and mental health, the pandemic has also affected our finances. Your place of work might have been temporarily closed, impacting your ability to earn an income for your family.

Some people have even managed to save money as a result of the pandemic, as their commute to work may not have been needed or they picked up a way to earn income on the side.

No matter how the pandemic is affecting your finances, we are not sure how long these changes will last. You may be thinking that you are unable to make an estate plan until everything calms down, but an estate plan is not a once-in-a-lifetime event. You can update your estate plan at any time, and more than once. In fact, we encourage our clients to update their plans at least every two years.

It is much better to at least have something in place, so your hard-earned assets are not distributed according to the outdated intestacy rules that dictate what happens if you do not leave a will.

Aiming for perfection can be paralyzing.

You do not need to have everything figured out, but it is much kinder on your loved ones if you leave some indication of your wishes rather than leaving nothing at all.

If there is anything positive that has come out of the coronavirus pandemic, we have found that more people are treating each other with compassion and understanding as the norm. Whatever you have experienced over the past year, do not underestimate other people’s ability to relate.

At Hegwood Law Group, we never stopped advising members of our community, to ensure that families were best placed to deal with whatever comes their way. Whether you are feeling overwhelmed, dazed, or quite frankly frightened, our years of expertise will put you at ease and help you gain the right protection to give you peace of mind.

For help putting the best plan in place for you and your loved ones, schedule a complimentary strategy session by giving us a call at (281) 885-8826 or scheduling online here.

Hegwood Law Group

Hegwood Law Group
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