The MLO Minute: By Dennis McAndrews, Esq. and Jennifer Simons, Esq.
It is human nature to defer significant decisions, especially when unusual circumstances come into play in our lives. Studies have shown that the current pandemic causes many individuals to defer or even avoid important decisions in their lives, resulting in undue hesitation or even mental paralysis in addressing important matters. In our Estate Planning practice, some clients have asked us whether they should move ahead with their estate plans at this time, or defer that process until the current pandemic and economic uncertainties are behind us. In almost every case, deferring these matters makes little personal or practical sense, especially since virtually all estate planning involves consideration of both current and future known and unknown events. As the famed football coach, George Allen, often told his team, “The future is now.”
There are several reasons to move ahead with estate planning at this time. Perhaps the least important are concerns about immediate mortality, and this article is not intended to emphasize these considerations during the current pandemic. Of course, for individuals at high risk such as first responders, medical personnel, and individuals living in congregant care settings, the dangers presented by the pandemic are very real and must factor into the decision of when and how to engage in estate planning activities. But for most others, the primary consideration is avoiding procrastination and making sure that the interests of your family are protected.
Also, completing your estate plan now allows you the opportunity to make sure that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. If you were to die a without a Will, your estate will pass according to intestate succession under the law of Pennsylvania, and this may not be in accordance with your wishes and whom you would want to inherit your estate.
One of the most important reasons to move ahead with an estate plan at this time is the peace of mind that completing this process offers during a particularly troubled time in our lives. Completing an estate plan, or revising one to deal with current circumstances, allows us to focus more fully on our family and prepare for the future.
Another reason to move ahead at this time is that so many of us have more time at home than at outside workplaces. Most of the records necessary to move ahead with an estate plan are often kept at home, and in many circumstances we have more accessibility and time to collect our records and our thoughts to expeditiously develop an estate plan. We also may have more private time to speak from home with the estate planning attorney, and sometimes have more personal flexibility to take a break from other tasks which are confronting us on a daily basis. Along these lines, once the pandemic has ended and individuals move back to traditional workplaces, it is quite possible that the available time to address personal matters will be compressed with the ramping up of extensive work activities.
Finally, because the pandemic generally limits or eliminates the ability to meet in person with counsel, virtual sessions with an estate planning attorney are often easier and faster to schedule, as travel time is eliminated, and the ability to schedule these matters is often enhanced. While so many things were not able to be accomplished in 2020, by completing your estate plan you can check off one important item that was able to be accomplished!
Our Estates and Trusts Department provides a full range of estate planning services, and our attorneys and support staff possess the experience and skill necessary to meet your needs. Unlike most estate planning practices, we are very transparent about our fee schedule, which appears on our website. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us, and we look forward to working with you!