2020 has been a very challenging year with new health concerns related to COVID-19 and its impact on everyday life. Naturally, this increased emphasis on health and safety may prompt related questions about estate and long term care planning, but you may assume that estate planning must wait due to health concerns.
However, much of the long term care and estate planning process can be done virtually. In fact, Elder Law of Middle Tennessee is prepared to conduct the initial consultation, estate planning and document review process in a virtual manner. Additionally, currently in Tennessee, even the document execution process for Power of Attorney documents, Last Will and Testaments and Trusts can be completed remotely. This means your estate planning does not have to wait for a COVID-19 vaccine!
Historically many have yet to take the first steps in the estate planning process. In fact, Care.com’s annual estate planning survey for 2019 found that 57% of U.S. adults do not have a Last Will & Testament (a “Will”). The survey found that participants were more likely or less likely to have a Will depending on issues such as age, race, and education. For example, when broken down generationally, 66% of people aged 65 and older, comprising the Baby Boomer generation and The Greatest Generation, have a Will, better than the overall average. Only 39% of the participants that fell into Generation X and 18% of the Millennial participants have a Will, well below the overall average.
The survey participants that did not have a Will gave many reasons why. The overwhelming answer was that they just had not gotten around to it. This answer was given 52% of the time. The next most common reason, given 22% of the time, was that they did not think they had enough assets to need a Will. The cost of making a Will was given as a reason 6% of the time, which was one of the least given answers.
The survey points out a major flaw in understanding the power of a Will. Most people have a basic understanding that a Will transfers assets you own when you die to the people outlined in your Will. Based on this oversimplified explanation of a reason to have a Will, it is easy to understand why younger people and people who have not yet amassed many assets misbelieve they do not need a Will. Never mind that anyone can die at any time, or that you own more than you realize and you want to have someone named to deal with all your stuff. More importantly, anyone with a minor child should use a Will to name a Guardian for that child.
However, if your children are grown, there may other obvious and not so obvious reasons why estate planning should be a high priority. You may be focusing on what will happen to your assets once you die, but fail to plan for what might happen if you live, but do not have the ability to take care of yourself. This is where it is very important to consult with an Elder Law Attorney who has experience guiding families through these planning issues.
Currently the whole estate planning process can occur without you even leaving your home. We are here to help guide you as you make decisions regarding your estate and long term care planning needs. Whatever issue is preventing you from making a Will or developing a more extensive estate plan, please allow Elder Law of Middle Tennessee to assist you in this process.