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Reevaluating Your Estate Plan After the COVID-19 Crisis Has Subsided

New Jersey has been one of the hardest-hit states in the country by COVID-19. While there have been over 12,000 coronavirus deaths in the Garden State, new cases are finally starting to drop. New Jersey residents who updated their estate plans during the initial outbreak in March may want to think about making more changes to reflect the post-pandemic world.

Living Will and Advance Care Directives

One of the major areas where your estate plan may be falling short is in dealing only with property issues. You may think that a will is limited solely to leaving estate property to the beneficiaries. However, the truth is that an estate plan is so much more than that.

An estate plan can also address giving powers of attorney and advance care directives. The COVID-19 crisis reinforced the notion that you may not be able to speak up for yourself to make your medical wishes known. Many people were alone in a hospital room suffering from the virus without their loved ones there to make decisions on their behalf. When you have an advance care directive, you make your choices known ahead of time. Medical care professionals must honor your choices when it comes to things such as a do-not-resuscitate order.

After COVID-19, you may take sudden health threats much more seriously. Take advantage of the time afterward to review your estate plan to see if you have any of these directives. If not, you should add them for you and your spouse.

Establish the Necessary Trusts

The number of deaths in New Jersey from COVID-19 has finally started to subside. However, probate courts will still be tied up for the foreseeable future. Combined with delays in the court system, the probate process may be slower indefinitely.

In addition, the specter of death may also have you thinking more about the smooth transfer of your assets without the possibility of litigation. The last thing you want is your heirs to have to retain an estate planning litigation lawyer because you forgot to tie up some loose ends. During the initial wave of the coronavirus crisis, many New Jersey residents rushed to create plans. This led to some hastily completed trusts. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on your circumstances, you may want to make some further changes.

Moreover, you may have also realized that the fragility of health means that you may have more medical expenses in the future. Even if you choose to stay out of a nursing home and desire to have home health care, the costs can add up quickly.

When you move assets into an irrevocable trust, you can qualify for Medicaid to pay for the costs of long-term care. Alternatively, you can set up a special medical trust to pay for the costs of care as they are necessary.

Changing Beneficiaries

You may also want to take the time to review the beneficiaries on each of your accounts to make sure that they are up to date. If you’ve had a death in your family during COVID-19, you may have to adjust your estate plan accordingly.

In general, you should review beneficiaries every few years or after a major life event. Your priorities may have changed during the COVID-19 crisis, and you may want to reflect that on your accounts. At a minimum, you should review beneficiaries on pensions, life insurance and retirement accounts. If you pass away suddenly without any changes in place, the existing beneficiaries on your accounts will be strictly enforced.

While the COVID-19 tragedy has hurt millions of people, you can also use it as a prompt to get your affairs in order. Reviewing an estate plan is something that you need to do anyway. If you set up a bare-bones estate plan back in March just to have something in place, that was a good start. However, you should not be content with the bare minimum.

To learn more about how you can change your estate plan, contact an estate planning litigation lawyer at the Knee Law Firm in Hackensack. Call us today at (201) 996-1200 to set up your initial consultation. 

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