ESTATE PLANNING DURING THE PANDEMIC
Kiplinger's Personal Finance|December 2020
Here’s how to prepare for the worst in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.
STACY RAPACON

Kip Rupple, 62, of Muskego, Wis., plays guitar in a classic rock band on the weekends. He and his wife, Roni Kramer, 56, ride Harleys. They know how to have a good time, but they’ve lived enough to know when to take life seriously.

Last year, Rupple saw the wife of one his best friends get sick and die. “I remember how painful it was for them while she was on her deathbed, having attorneys in there doing estate plans for the two of them,” he says. “I would never want that, and now the situation with COVID made me realize it’s probably a good time to get ahead of that sort of thing.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 a nightmare for many people around the world, and inadequate estate planning can exacerbate the pain. Certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and chief executive of Francis Financial, in New York City, recently helped a client whose husband passed away in the hospital due to COVID complications. “She came to us with screenshots of his last texts to her that were frantically sent and trying to outline their investment accounts, where their money was and what she needed to do,” Francis says.

Since then, Francis and the widow have worked together to take control of her financial situation and update her own estate plan. That’s the thin silver lining Francis hopes people take away from her client’s story. “While there’s been so much heartache due to COVID, use this as an opportunity to get your estate plan in order, get your life insurance in order, get your financial ducks in order,” she says.

Having a will and estate plan is important for everyone, but it’s crucial as you approach retirement. You’ll probably have more assets at this stage of your life, and it’s important to consider who you would like to inherit them. You’ll also want to be certain that your spouse and family will be well taken care of if anything happens to you.

TRY A TRUST

For many people, family is the point of estate planning. “Preparing your estate is a real act of love—not for you, but for your family,” says Chas Rampenthal, general counsel for LegalZoom. “You’re telling them straight up, ‘I’m not going to put that burden on you to figure out what I wanted. I’m going to tell you what I want, so you don’t have to worry about it.’ ”

Without a will or estate plan, state law dictates how your assets are distributed after you die. “Not only can this be a costly process in many cases, but it can also be a giant burden on your heirs during a time of grieving and sadness,” says Taylor Schulte, a CFP and host of the podcast Stay Wealthy.

Even with a will, going through probate (the court-supervised process of passing assets through a will or, in the absence of a will, through state law) can be time-consuming and expensive. You can avoid it by setting up a trust, the most common of which is a revocable living trust. (Revocable means you can change the terms of the trust if your wishes or circumstances change.) A revocable living trust “is a really powerful tool,” says Samuel Nuxoll, an Ann Arbor-based estate planning attorney with Miller Canfield. “It sort of has this mystique about it as being only for the rich and famous, but that’s just not true.”

To the contrary, he suggests that most people—especially anyone who has children or owns real estate— could benefit from setting up a trust. Not only does having a trust let you avoid probate and help ensure that your money goes to the people you choose, but it also lets you control exactly how the money can be used and appoint a person to take control when you’re not available.

“With a will, the executor is really just kind of an administrator who transfers assets from one person to another. But a trustee is more of a decisionmaker,” he says. “They’re standing in your shoes and making decisions you would want to make if you were still around to make them.”

FAMILY MATTERS

Nuxoll sold the idea of a trust to Brian and Marisa Pilarski, of Chesterfield, Mich. When they had met with him, they were just hoping to outline what would happen to their 1-year-old son, Franklin, if they were both to pass away. But Nuxoll explained that if they were to die while Franklin was still a minor, simply leaving him all their assets wouldn’t work out the way they wanted. “He guided us to think about, in the event of an emergency, who things will go to, how things will be spent, how we want to allocate those funds,” Brian, 33, says.

Like many new parents, the Pilarskis had intended to square this all away for Franklin at some point. “But quarantine put a little fire under us to get us moving,” says Marisa, 35.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM KIPLINGER'S PERSONAL FINANCEView All

Profit From Planet-Friendly Companies

Sustainable stocks are going gangbusters. We found seven with an environmental focus to buy now.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

SAVE ENERGY (AND MONEY, TOO)

Tax breaks and the prospect of lower utility bills make these projects worth a look.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

New Challenges for a Church

With Sunday services online, this minister’s congregation is finding ways to stay connected.

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

Fulfilling Ways to Spend Retirement

LIVING IN RETIREMENT

3 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

Protect Your Home From Nature's Wrath

Some disasters aren’t covered by standard homeowners policies. Make sure you’re prepared before it’s too late.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

How Green Are Your Bonds?

Fixed-income investors can make an environmental impact.

5 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

Best 401(k) Funds From American Funds

We rate the most popular actively managed offerings for retirement accounts.

8 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

THE CASE FOR Indexed Annuities

These products may offer better returns than traditional fixed-income investments. But there are trade-offs.

10+ mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

Earth-First ETFs Are Soaring

These five exchange-traded funds should deliver big rewards.

7 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021

A Word About Short Selling: Don't

The fracas in January over a company called GameStop suddenly brought the practice of shorting stocks back into the public spotlight. GameStop sells video games via a network of thousands of retail outlets that have the anachronistic feel of Blockbuster stores. Business has soured, mainly because of online competition. GameStop scratched out a profit in fiscal 2017 (ending January 31, 2018), then lost money in the next two years and is estimated to have lost $680 million in the past 12 months.

5 mins read
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

Don't Pack The Court

Joe Biden shouldn’t repeat FDR’s big mistake.

10+ mins read
Reason magazine
February 2021

Prehistoric Birds Take Flight and Pique Public Interest

Birds have really taken flight these past two decades—ancient birds, that is! A flurry of new research has led to a flurry of books with titles like Dinosaurs of the Air, The Mistaken Extinction: Dinosaur Evolution and the Origin of Birds, Mesozoic Birds: Above the Heads of Dinosaurs, and The Rise of Birds, among others.

4 mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
December 2020

Franklin-Myers turning into Jets' bright spot

It was a transaction that didn’t garner a lot of attention, but this player is starting to get people’s attention.

7 mins read
NY Jets Confidential
November 2020

Marvelous Micromounts

TURNING TO “MICROS” FOR A UNIQUE EXPLORATION AND APPRECIATION OF ABUNDANT MINERALS IN FRANKLIN, NEW JERSEY

7 mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
November 2020

THE CHINABERRY KITCHEN

Strong color unifies a revival kitchen in a 1910 Seattle house. A NOT-TOO-BIG HOUSE WITH CURB APPEAL WAS WHAT MARISA MUNOZ WAS LOOKING FOR WHEN SHE CAME UPON THIS ONE ON QUEEN ANNE HILL IN SEATTLE. THE 1910 HOUSE, A TRANSITIONAL FUSION OF LATE-VICTORIAN AND CRAFTSMAN ELEMENTS, HAD JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING SHE WANTED: STEEP GABLES AND PRETTY WINDOWS; ORIGINAL MOULDINGS, HARDWOOD FLOORS, AND A ROMANTIC WINDING STAIRCASE. WELL MAINTAINED, THE HOUSE GENERALLY WAS IN MOVE-IN CONDITION . . . EXCEPT FOR THE KITCHEN.

3 mins read
Old House Journal
October - November 2020

Eagles swim team makes waves at state meet

School records broken

1 min read
The Weekly Packet
2/20/2020

GSA swim team heads into post-season

PVCs this weekend, state championship follows

2 mins read
Island Ad-Vantages
2/6/2020

Eagle swimmers wrap up PVCs, look to state championships

BLUE HILL—Eagle swimmers are headed to the Maine state championships next week despite relatively low team scores at the Penobscot Valley Conference championships on February 8 at the University of Maine at Orono.

1 min read
Island Ad-Vantages
2/13/2020

Hose Pros

This life-saving museum ought to ring a few bells with readers.

1 min read
Oklahoma Today
January/February 2020

Pumpkins, Frights And Lively Nights

Autumn is the perfect season to fall in love with Boston. With pumpkins galore, a crisp breeze and leaves of bright oranges and reds, the area settles into its own beauty. It’s also the season of spook and the city happily turns its pumpkin spiced latte in for a cup of creep. Here are a few ways to get in the Halloween spirit.

2 mins read
Where Boston
October 2019