With the recent spread of Covid-19 and its immediate impact, more people are staying home to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. With the uncertainty of how long this will take and worrying about our family and friends, your thoughts inevitably turn to “are my affairs in order?”
While we cannot answer how long this will last, we can offer some best practices to getting your affairs in order. As most of us are self-quarantining, this is a great opportunity to evaluate your situation and get organized!
Estate Planning Documents-Now is a great time to dust off and review that binder full of estate planning documents. Review the provisions, and the persons you named in your documents, to make sure the documents still reflect your intent. Need to make changes? Had a recent grandchild that you want to plan for? No time like now to put together some ideas and let us help you with revisions. WARNING: Writing on your copies (or originals if you have them) are not valid changes. Furthermore, it may create confusion and unnecessary litigation at your death. You have a great opportunity to use this time to get revisions drafted and then sign them once it is safe to do so. Do you know someone who does not have an estate plan? This is also a great time to convince them to get organized and begin to put a plan in place. The surreal and rapid spread of Covid-19 has taught us the world can change in an instant. It is critical to be prepared.
Beneficiary Designation Forms-It is very important to verify the primary and contingent beneficiaries of accounts such as your IRA, 401(k) and life insurance. If you cannot find a beneficiary designation form, then contact the financial institution and request a copy of what it has on record. If you plan to update your beneficiary designation forms, then it is very important to review your estate planning documents to ensure such beneficiary designations are coordinated with your estate plan. It is strongly advised to have a quick conference with our office to discuss new beneficiary designations to ensure they are properly coordinated with your current estate plan.
Old Statements-Gather statements that are over 3 years old, or belong to accounts that no longer exist, and shred them!This will help reduce any confusion after you pass and your family will not have to waste time calling financial institutions to confirm if an account was closed. If you don’t have a shredding machine, or you have too many to shred, check with your local library or county and look for future shredding events. Also, for a fee, companies like Office Depot will shred paperwork for you.
Current Statements-Now that you have removed all unnecessary paperwork, organize the statements to only your current assets. Do not forget to include copies of deeds and titles to vehicles and vessels. We recommend at least keeping two years’ worth of statements. Also, many financial institutions keep at least a few years of statements online so now might be a great time to go paperless! If you go paperless, print out the December statement of the previous year and keep it in your estate planning binder with a note that other statements are available online.
Passwords-Make sure you have all your current passwords written down in a secure place (not under the keyboard!) or use a secure site like One Password to store them. Your passwords should not all be the same, have a degree of difficulty and you should change them every few months. We suggest telling a trusted loved one where to find your passwords (just where to find them, do not give them your passwords) in case of an emergency. Don’t forget the password to your computer and smartphone.
Please feel free to share this blog with family and friends as our goal is to help as many people as we can during this unprecedented time.
With the recent passing of the Pinellas County “Covid-19 Safer at Home Order” Resolution Number 20-20, legal professionals are deemed an “essential business.” Our office will be working remotely but we are always available by email and telephone. In emergencies, we can help in the office practicing required social distancing. We are also happy to conduct appointments via free teleconference or online using secure platforms like Zoom. We are here to help in any way we can. We hope you and your family stay healthy and well.
WORD OF THE WEEK: Flatten the Curve-The “curve” is the daily increase in coronavirus cases. Flattening the curve means working together to stay home, practice social distancing and do our part to reduce the daily number of infections. It is important “flatten the curve” because it helps alleviate the strain on our medical professionals and gets us back to our normal daily lives.
GENEROSITY IS A KEY TO HAPPINESS…REACH OUT AND HELP SOMEONE TODAY! 😎