Estate Planning Tips for Unusual Times

Finances have been stretched and lives upended during the first half of 2020. The impact of the coronavirus has breathed uncertainty and anxiety into the lives of families around the world and locally. A recent Bankrate survey found nearly half of Americans have had incomes cut during the coronavirus pandemic and 76% of respondents are worried about financial harm if there is another outbreak.

While markets and economies may be fluctuating greatly, there are ways to regain some control over the future of your finances. Proper estate planning can protect your family and lessen the impact of another financial downturn.

Creating or updating estate planning documents provides families with some assurance and supplies a roadmap for your loved ones to navigate when turbulent times arise. Personalized estate plans, like those provided by the Pennsylvania attorneys at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw & Wilk, LLC, meet needs by developing provisions like a Last Will and Testament, an advanced health care directive or living will, and a power of attorney. These documents allow you to designate agents to ensure your wishes and desires are carried out.

Creating a Will

A Last Will and Testament manages and distributes a person’s estate, divides assets, designates guardianship of minor children. It also names an executor who carries out the terms of your will. A will offers basic protection for loved ones and, when written well, it avoids unnecessary expenses for your estate. If a person dies without a will, the state decides who receives your assets and property. In Pennsylvania, our intestacy laws give your property to your closest relatives first, followed by increasingly distant relatives. If the court finds no living relatives by blood or marriage, then the state will take your property.

For more complicated estates, including second marriages, business earnings, properties in other estates and more, setting up a trust may be a better course of action.

While wills and trusts should encompass the entirety of your estate, it is also important to check the beneficiaries on financial assets such as IRAs or 401Ks to ensure they are correct. The designations on the accounts can often supersede what is written in the will.

The estate attorneys at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC encourage everyone to develop a will or trust. Utilizing an estate lawyer to set up a will or trust that correctly accomplishes your wishes is critical to prevent incurring extra expenses.

Creating a will online may save you a few hundred dollars, but it may cost your family thousands as they go through probate court or even litigate because of errors or omissions in the online document. While drafting a will or trust with a lawyer does not always prevent probate, but it does move your estate through the process faster and more smoothly with expert guidance.

Living Wills, Health Care Power of Attorneys and Advance Health Care Directives

Accidents, illnesses, aging and even scheduled medical procedures can significantly alter a person’s capability to make important medical decisions. Outlining your wishes and choosing someone you trust to oversee them prevents your care from being placed in the hands of people who may know little about your preferences, like estranged family members, medical personnel or even judges.

A living will defines the medical care you want to receive or not, as well as end of life wishes, if you are ever incapacitated or terminally ill. For example, how you set up your living will can dictate medical decisions from pain relief to life-sustaining measures or even instructions for organ donation.

When you are incapacitated, a health care durable power of attorney permits you to designate a family member or friend to make health care decisions for you. This person also ensures the health care wishes expressed in your living will are honored.

An advance health care directive combines a health care durable power of attorney and a living will.

Power of Attorney

While a health care durable power of attorney and living will oversee your medical wishes, a financial power of attorney manages your financial and legal affairs if you are incapacitated.

When set up correctly, your agent (a designated family member or friend) has the ability to conduct needed financial transactions or actions on your behalf in a timely manner. This is useful if you are stuck somewhere, like in quarantine or in the hospital, and need someone to pay bills, stop mail or other important tasks. Digital assets like email and social media also fall under power of attorney responsibilities.

Power of attorney duties are suspended when the person regains competency or end with the death of the person being represented.

Plan Your Health and Estate Wishes with a Lawyer Soon

With the uncertainty that comes along with a health pandemic, setting up a will, a living will or advance health care directive and a financial power of attorney quickly and correctly is strongly advised. While using an online form may be appealing in the short-term, the tailored advice you will receive from a licensed professional will best fit your individual situation and desires for your health care, assets and finances, and family.

Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC’s attorneys plan personalized estates for our clients to meet their needs. Our Pennsylvania attorneys offer a variety of services including drafting of wills, advanced health care directives, living wills, power of attorneys, as well as property transfers, and trusts. Our skilled trust attorney carefully crafts trusts to specifically protect assets, saving funds that may otherwise fall into nursing home expenses or taxes.

Following the loss of a loved one, our experienced and compassionate attorneys maneuver our grieving clients through the probate process quickly. We work diligently to limit the inheritance tax liability so beneficiaries receive as much of the estate funds as possible.

Trust the estate lawyers at Lepley, Engelman, Yaw and Wilk, LLC to guide you through the estate planning process. Contact us today at (800) 422-5396 or by clicking here.


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320 Market Street, Lewisburg (570) 522-0505
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