The uncertainty created by COVID-19 has caused more people to fast-track estate planning. The pandemic illuminated that time as precious, causing many to reflect on their priorities and make changes. One of those changes is making sure that they and their family are cared for should the worst happen, or a severe health emergency befalls them.
At The Springer Law Firm, we are seeing an uptick in people wanting to create an estate plan or update an existing one. Health and mortality are on the minds of all ages. It’s not just older Americans. Millennials and other younger adults are realizing the importance of having a will, trust, or other estate planning tools.
A survey of Americans found that 12% of those with a will had it created in the last 12 months, and 44% in the last five years. The pandemic era has shifted the main drivers behind estate planning from family conflict to increased healthcare costs. Planning for an unpredictable future provides some sense of control.
A survey of estate planners found that the current concerns for estate planning are as follows:
- Healthcare Costs and Prolonged Life Expectancy
- Market Volatility
- Political Conflict
- Family Conflict
The first three threats made huge jumps in importance while family conflict fell by more than half.
Despite the increase in planning, far too few people have acted. Findings in a May 2021 Gallup poll showed that 64% do not have a will. For those younger than 30, that statistic drops to 20%.
Create Your Estate Plan
There are many reasons why having an estate plan is important. There is a pervasive misconception that only people with a large estate and tremendous assets need one. Another falsehood is only people with children need to worry about their estate. Nothing is further from the truth though elements in your estate plan will vary depending on economic, family, age, health, and other factors.
The following tools can be used in estate planning:
- Wills. Naming beneficiaries is an important part of wills, but there are others. You will name an executor who will oversee how your wishes are carried out. If you have minor children, you also should include who you want to be their guardian should you die.
- Trusts. Types of trusts include revocable, irrevocable, charitable, and special needs. From making sure disabled children receive proper care to protecting assets from creditors, we can help you choose the right trust for you.
- Power of Attorney. There are several different types of power of attorney. You can give someone the power to make legal, financial, or healthcare decisions.
- Advance Directives. These documents outline decisions about end-of-life care. These only go into effect should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself.
If you die without a will in Texas, the state will determine how your assets are distributed. Who gets what is based on intestate succession laws, which are part of the Estates Code. If you are married with children, you might think that your surviving spouse will get everything. But the law only gives your spouse full ownership of your community property. With separate personal property, your children will inherit two-thirds while your spouse gets one-third. By the way, all that changes if the person you are married to is not the parent of your children. In a situation where you die unmarried with no children, your parents will each get half of your estate. If your parents are deceased but you have siblings, they will inherit your estate.
As you can see, it can be complicated. The law also does not consider the status of your relationship with your family. That sibling you’ve been on the outs with for years could inherit everything. Another important point is that Texas law does not recognize stepchildren and step-grandchildren as heirs.
Only through a will or other estate planning tool can you ensure that those you want to receive your property will upon your death.
Revisit Your Estate Plan
The estate plan is not something that sits in a binder on a shelf. These plans should be thought of as living documents that must be tended to and adjusted when circumstances in your life change. COVID-19 has devastated the health or economic status of many Americans. Statistics show that women particularly have been negatively impacted by job losses, taking a salary decrease, or leaving the workforce altogether.
Life changes that trigger an update to your estate plan include:
- Children (Birth, Adoption, Stepchildren)
- Desire to Change Your Children’s Guardian
- Disinheriting a Named Beneficiary
- Moving to a Different State
- Change in Job Status
- Opening a Business
If you have been wanting to make a change, now is the time.
Have Peace of Mind Through Estate Planning
Our experienced attorneys at The Springer Law Firm provide compassionate and knowledgeable counsel for all your estate planning needs. Our client’s goals are our first priorities when building an estate plan. We also use our comprehensive understanding of estate law to create plans that streamline the probate process, lessen the implications of potential future tax policies, and reduce capital gains and other tax liabilities.
Contact us today to create a plan that protects you and your loved ones. Use our convenient online form or call us at (281) 990-6025 to get started.