Investor Alert

Oct. 21, 2020, 2:01 p.m. EDT

How to plan your estate during a pandemic

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Alessandra Malito

The pandemic has highlighted just how easily the unexpected can occur — and how important it is to have the proper plans in place. 

Estate planning, the process where you decide how to divide up your money and possessions when you die, has become even more important as Americans battle the impact of the coronavirus on their health and finances. More than 200,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., and many more have gotten sick, lost their jobs or saw their pay cut in recent months. 

Without proper estate planning documentation, a person’s wishes for their assets may not be followed. Beyond a will, there are documents in place that can assist in describing how their wishes are conducted, and types of accounts that can hold significant assets. 

Many Americans forgo wills, despite the fact they can be simple documents that spell out to whom their assets go. Even the rich and famous might not have this paperwork. Chadwick Boseman, star of Marvel’s “Black Panther,” did not have a will when he died in August after a long battle with cancer, nor did Jimi Hendrix or Prince.

Creating a will can be a relatively simple process, but may be emotionally and mentally taxing. “Many people find the task of getting their estate planning done a daunting process, whether it’s because they don’t want to face their own mortality, they can’t decide how to distribute their assets or they just can’t find the time to actually meet with an attorney to get it done,” said Kathleen Kenealy, managing director and senior wealth adviser at Boston Private. 

Still, here’s what advisers recommended people do to get started: 

Here are more questions to ask an adviser or attorney when estate planning: 

One more suggestion experts had: talk to your family members after the plans are in place, even if that may be difficult , Black said. “After documents are signed, I recommend clients get comfortable being uncomfortable and have a family meeting with their adult children to share the ‘why’ behind decisions, like making unequal distributions among children,” she said. “A family meeting allows you to ‘set the record straight’ and prevent your decisions from being misinterpreted after you are gone and unable to speak for yourself.”

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