WILLS, TRUSTS, AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
COVID 19 doesn’t stop the need to plan. In fact, it should motivate us to do so. That includes arranging for who will make decisions for us if we become incapacitated and directing how our money and property will be managed and distributed when we die. This is especially true for those who are Baby Boomers, who are retired or nearing retirement, and who are thinking of the challenges of aging and health concerns.
We all know that wills direct who will receive asserts upon death, but they do more than that. They name the persons who will be responsible to manage our estates, and to see that legal matters are taken care of. Everyone should have a will.
Trusts govern the management of money and property during lifetime and at death. A revocable trust typically appoints the settlor (the person who establishes the trust) as the trustee (the person who administers the trust) and benefits the settlor as the beneficiary (the person for whose benefit the trust is administered) during life. They usually name a successor trustee to serve if the settlor becomes incapacitated, and upon the settlor’s death. Directions are almost always included concerning administration and distribution of money and property at the settlor’s death. In this way, a revocable trust is similar to a will, but money and property held by this kind of trust do not require probate administration at death.
Probate is the legal process that is required when a person dies owning property in his or her name without a joint owner or a designated beneficiary. In Arkansas, probate is a six- month proceeding. The cost is often between about three and six percent of the value of property in the probate estate, usually with a minimum expense of several thousand dollars. The process is required to give notice to heirs, to determine whether the deceased person had a will, and to give creditors a chance to be paid.
Powers of attorney are documents which appoint persons to make decisions and to sign documents. They can be effective immediately or upon incapacity.
Health care powers of attorney and health care directives are documents naming agents to make health care decisions when the persons signing them become incapacitated.
All these documents are part of the decisions we each should make. The importance of making these plans is brought home to each of us as we experience this health crisis.
In order to make these legal services available in a safe way, our firm offers real-time visual and audio conferences by Face Time, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams and other means. It is not necessary for clients to come to our office. Documents can be signed, witnessed and notarized in the same way, without personal interaction.
During this pandemic, we are discounting our fees for wills and powers of attorney by ten percent. Please email or call and we will email a fee schedule and an estate planning questionnaire that will help you organize your information. When you are ready to make an appointment for a conference, our staff will schedule a call or a video conference.