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With the recent pandemic of Covid-19, more Americans are realizing they need to get their estate planning affairs in order, and quickly. Suddenly, things you’ve been putting off finally get completed (or started) with your new productive downtime at home. Help yourself destress and achieve peace of mind by using your downtime to create and finalize your estate plan. I know what you are thinking – “I don’t make enough money or have enough assets to have an estate plan. I don’t even own an ‘estate’.” That’s simply not true. In the eyes of the law, an “estate” is simply all the property you own, both outright and jointly—including bank accounts, real estate, stocks and bonds, vehicles, jewelry, retirement accounts and even pets. So, if you have a pet, you have an estate to protect.

Estate planning is just a process in which someone specifies how their money, property and medical care should be managed during life and/or after their death. It simply involves drawing up and finalizing one or more documents that gives a legal voice to someone’s wishes. At a minimum, every adult should have an advanced healthcare directive and will as their estate plan. An advanced healthcare directive allows you to instruct healthcare providers about medical treatments if you’re no longer able to express yourself—and it also names someone to oversee your care. A will is the most basic estate planning document there is—and for some people, it represents the only estate plan they need. A will can be used to dictate several different things, including how to divide up property, guardianship, debts, and more. But in many situations, such as those who own property or predict any family disputes, a trust is necessary to minimize or eliminate court involvement. 

Estate planning is a necessity for every adult, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. There is no amount of wealth or assets that decides who gets to have an estate plan. An estate plan is for everyone, especially your loved ones, as it will remove any burdens on decision making for them. Here’s the good news: estate planning doesn’t have to be depressing, and the sooner you get started, the better off you and your family will be. There is no better time than the present to finalize your wishes, especially before a medical crisis arises.

Caring.com recently partnered with You Gov and conducted a survey of 2,400 Americans to determine who is interested in estate planning. According to the study, ONLY 32 percent of U.S. adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust. While the data shows that the majority of people believe estate planning is important, they just hadn’t gotten around to finalizing it yet. Now with social distancing downtime, you finally have the chance to take that first step.

Wired Magazine recently published an article stating it’s a good time to address some of the personal life projects you’ve been putting off. ““Drafting a will or updating an existing one doesn’t have to be a morbid process, if you look at it as just another form of personal organization.” According to Allison Tait, a law professor who studies trusts, estates, and family law at the University of Richmond adds, “It’s a good idea for everybody to have a plan, and a good time to think about it,” Tait says. “There’s more free time in the day for many people, and the contextual circumstances of a global pandemic might certainly lead people to think about these things.””

Most estate planning can happen completely at home too. You can meet with your attorney virtually and draft up your documents that can be sent via email or standard mail. You’ll only need to meet with your attorney to sign certain papers. And in some circumstances only your signature is needed, allowing you to stay in the comfort of your own home. If you do need something witnessed, Wiles offers a drive thru service where you can have the papers handed to you safely through your window and be on your way. South Carolina is also petitioning to have “remote notarization” legalized during the pandemic, but so far nothing has been passed yet. But stay tuned, this pandemic is causing lawmakers to look at things differently moving forward.

As we grip with some of our new realities as Americans, we’re reminded of what’s most important. And that’s our health and peace of mind. We’ve been so busy, always putting others first and never having time for ourselves. Take this downtime as a gift and put yourself first by preparing your wishes. Wiles Law was created to help you embrace the future, not fear it. We will help your family protect more than just your estate. We strive to preserve your legacy for future generations to come. Let’s get through this together.