We asked our former board member and founder of the Scolaro Law Firm, Rob Scolaro, about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting his work as an estate-planning attorney and for his thoughts on creating and updating wills and estate plans.
THERE HAVE BEEN NEWS ARTICLES ABOUT MORE PEOPLE GETTING THEIR WILLS DONE OR UPDATED AS A RESULT OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC. ARE WE SEEING THE SAME THING HERE IN CENTRAL NEW YORK?
Yes. I have been receiving a lot more calls with people claiming this COVID-19 pandemic has really made them want to get all of their important estate planning documents in place or updated to reflect their current intentions. I recommend clients not only look at updating/creating their wills but also to make sure their powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney, and living wills are up-to-date, along with their beneficiary designations on their life insurance policies, annuities, and qualified plans.
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, WHAT MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO CREATE A WILL OR UPDATE ESTATE PLANS?
The most prevalent reasons I hear are often related to a family or friend situation. For example, when a family member or friend passes away or gets sick, it makes people want to make sure their own personal estate plans are in place or are updated to reflect their current goals and objectives. Another motivation for people is changes in their own family situation, i.e., a birth of a child/grandchild, change in asset values, retirement, personal health scare, a decision to relocate or purchase a second residence, or a death/decreased health situation for someone whom they have named as a fiduciary under their current estate planning documents. This includes roles like executor, alternate executor, guardian(s), trustee(s), agent(s) under their powers of attorney or health care agent(s) under their health care powers of attorney.
IF YOU ALREADY HAVE AN ESTATE PLAN, WHEN ARE UPDATES NECESSARY?
Updates are necessary in the event of a change in
circumstances like those mentioned previously or when the person is changing their residency to another state. Estate plans should be looked at every 3-5 years to make sure an individual’s goals and objectives are still being achieved with the way their current estate planning documents are drafted.
WHY IS HAVING A WILL AND AN UPDATED ESTATE PLAN SO IMPORTANT?
Everyone over the age of 18 who is competent should have a will because it allows the person to make the decision over who is to receive their individually owned assets, and who are going to be the fiduciaries to handle their estate. Financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney documents are also needed so they are able to name the individual(s) whom they want to handle their personal/financial matters and their healthcare-related decisions.
HOW DO OTHER ADVISORS PLAY A ROLE WHEN CREATING OR UPDATING AN ESTATE PLAN?
It is vital that the individual’s professional advisors are all on the same page and working together in order to make sure the individual’s estate planning goals and objectives are achieved. A lack of collaboration could create a conflict in the plans. An example is a financial advisor recommending the individual have all their assets owned as payable-upon-death or owned as joint-tenants-with-rights-of-survivorship, while the attorney is recommending and has prepared a revocable trust with testamentary trusts for the individual’s beneficiaries at passing. These two methods are opposite of each other and the individual’s estate planning goals and objectives may not be able to achieved. When professional advisors work collaboratively, they can make sure the individual is well informed and their goals and objectives can be carried out as intended.
HOW CAN COLLABORATING WITH THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION (CNYCF) HELP PEOPLE CREATE A LASTING IMPACT WITH THEIR WILLS AND ESTATE PLANS?
CNYCF provides individuals with the necessary mechanisms to achieve their philanthropic goals and objectives. Its staff provides various options for individuals to achieve their philanthropic goals by using funds that are tailored to each person. Whether giving during their lifetimes or upon passing, CNYCF allows individuals to achieve their philanthropic goals and objectives in a very efficient and long-lasting manner.
In closing, last month (August) was National Make a Will month and next month (October) is National Estate Planning Awareness month, both of which are reminders that there is no time like now to get started. By working with an advisor to define your goals, gather and organize your data, and implement your estate plan, you can confidently move forward knowing your intentions will be carried out.
If you would like to discuss this topic further or learn about options to make a difference with your plan or your clients’ plans, please feel free to contact Tom Griffith, vice president, development, at 315-883-5544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.