Young Lawyers Division, 0621 UTBJ, Vol. 34, No. 3. 62

Authorby Dara R. Cohen
PositionVol. 34 3 Pg. 62

Young Lawyers Division

No. Vol. 34 No. 3 Pg. 62

Utah Bar Journal

June, 2021

May, 2021

Estate Planning as COVID-19 Continues: What You Need to Know

by Dara R. Cohen

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, many clients newly consider worst-case scenarios for our families, disabling illness, and mortality. Is this the right time to create an estate plan? Is this the right time to revisit the estate plan they already have? The answer to either is likely a firm and confident, “Yes.” But, of course, caveats and exemptions always exist.

If a client didn’t need an estate plan before, the client probably doesn’t need one now.

Despite a person’s status as “alive” and “owning stuff,” not everyone needs an estate plan. If a person does not own real estate, does not have dependents, has beneficiary designations on all financial assets (life insurance, retirement/investment accounts, annuities, and even checking/savings accounts), and is not overly concerned about incapacity planning, the person does not need an estate plan. The heirs might benefit from one, but estate planning is less urgent than for someone with more complex assets or dependents that would be at risk.

Advising clients how to utilize beneficiary designations and other non-probate transfer tools is a valuable expertise, even if a last will and testament and trust are not part of the final service.

But everyone should have an advanced health care directive.

Anyone, regardless of assets and heirs, should have an advanced health care directive. Utah’s standardized advanced health care directive is designed to complete independently without the need for an attorney. If medical planning is a potential client’s only concern, and if they understand the advantages of a complete estate plan, attorneys can direct such a person to the free online form. The form is available in Spanish and English, and comes with comprehensive instructions: https://ucoa.utah.edu/directives/. The advanced health care directive allows the principal to name a first and second agent who can make medical decisions if the principal is unable to speak for her/himself.

After deciding with a client that the client needs an estate plan, start by laying out the difference between a will and a trust.

A will is a one-time, snap-shot distribution of assets at the time of death. All assets controlled by a will must pass through the probate court process. Probate...

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