Commentary: Estate Planning’s Importance Heightened by the Pandemic

October 19, 2020

By abarker on October 19, 2020
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When a family member passes away, the executor and trustee must work together to settle the decedent’s affairs. This includes gathering and taking inventory of all property, paying any final bills and taxes, and accounting for and making distributions to beneficiaries.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, executors and trustees face challenges like never before. For instance, travel has become more difficult and is often restricted. These restrictions make it more difficult to conduct estate sales, hire contractors and appraisers, or otherwise facilitate a home sale. The restrictions have also made it more difficult to open probate estates, access accounts, visit financial institutions, and generally move estate and trust administrations forward through court or otherwise.

How does RMB help our clients keep their estate plans in order?

  • RMB advisors begin with a review of a client’s current estate plan. Current estate plans typically contain a will, a revocable living trust, and powers of attorney that both govern financial and healthcare situations and provide an agent with access to medical records and authority to have discussions with health care providers.
  • After reviewing documents, our advisors verify whether the client’s choices remain current. These choices include dispositive provisions (who inherits what), fiduciary choices (who will serve as executor, trustee, or agent under a power of attorney), and liquidity (what assets are available to pay final debts and taxes). We refer to this as our “estate plan stress test.”
  • Our advisors next assess whether asset titles remain current on homes, bank accounts, and investment accounts. We also confirm current beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and life insurance. This process ensures that funding of trusts is coordinated with the estate plan to ensure expected outcomes. We consider this to be “housekeeping for estate plans.”
  • Following these preliminary reviews, our advisors discuss key items that help a client’s family respond best in times of need. We encourage our clients to maintain lists of key advisor and professional contacts along with names of primary doctors and specialists. We also suggest maintaining logs of digital passwords to help family members access accounts that would otherwise become frozen after the account owner’s passing. Finally, we emphasize the importance of conducting family meetings so parents can share their wishes and guidance with family members. We like to call this our “family stewardship process.”

Primarily, we hope you and your family members are taking precautions that help you to stay safe and healthy. We hope you have already taken the necessary steps outlined above to ensure your estate plans are in order. If not, please request a conversation with an RMB advisor or ask your RMB advisor how best to help you help your family. They will thank you.

Disclaimers

The opinions and analyses expressed in this newsletter are based on RMB Capital Management, LLC's ("RMB Capital") research and professional experience, and are expressed as of the date of our mailing of this commentary. Certain information expressed represents an assessment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast or guarantee of future performance, nor is it intended to speak to any future time periods. RMB Capital makes no warranty or representation, express or implied, nor does RMB Capital accept any liability, with respect to the information and data set forth herein, and RMB Capital specifically disclaims any duty to update any of the information and data contained in this newsletter. The information and data in this commentary does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, investment, or other professional advice. This information is confidential and may not be reproduced or redistributed to any other party without the permission of RMB Capital.

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