The coronavirus pandemic has taught us one thing above all else — you can never really be prepared for an outbreak or public health scare. After all, only a small fraction of the affected population actually suffer serious complications when infected with the virus. An even smaller fraction will succumb to the virus. Most of those who do are very old or have other health conditions that reduce immune response.
But that hasn’t changed the unexpected consequences: the stock market has sunk to historic lows, Broadway has closed its doors, the NHL has canceled its season, travel to and from Europe is mostly shut down, and there is a serious lack of toilet paper on store shelves. One would think that facial tissue would be the first staple to disappear from grocery stores, but no — we’re most concerned about the ability to wipe our butts.
All this fallout from the coronavirus might have been prevented with proper planning. Which is exactly why seniors should start estate planning if they haven’t done so before now. It’s an important step that can really prevent headache for family or other beneficiaries if and when the worst happens.
What does that look like?
Well, there’s no time like the present to update your living will and power of attorney. Should you fall seriously ill — a possibility on everyone’s mind right now — then you want to know that someone trustworthy has the power to make decisions about your healthcare and finances. You can nominate an individual for either category, or the same person can handle both. It depends on what you need and who you trust.
Haven’t named any heirs or beneficiaries yet? Think about your assets. Who should get that antique vase of Great Aunt Charlotte’s when you’re gone? Family heirlooms are meaningful. Don’t let a probate court judge give it to your delinquent stepson, Bobby Joe.
When left without a proper estate plan, your family won’t have the last say in who gets what. The entire matter will be left to probate court if there are any altercations at all. Both kids want the car? Too bad: A judge will make the decision for you.
Estate planning can also help minimize the tax burden for your beneficiaries if you own a lot of wealth. Smaller estates usually aren’t taxed at the federal level, but state laws vary. Check with an estate planning lawyer in your neighborhood to see where you fit.