Estate Planning and COVID-19: An Unforeseen Catalyst

by Nathan Sgro | Jun 08, 2021 | Covid19, Wills

 

A New Landscape and Your Changing Needs

War, plagues, stock market crashes and pandemics all have something in common: they breed uncertainty and fear. It is common during such periods for people to reflect on their own mortality, how to protect themselves and preserve their assets. The COVID-19 pandemic is a life changing event that has caused an alarming increase in enquiries for Estate Planning services and has acted as the catalyst for numerous other legal issues.

Apart from the tragic and growing number of deaths, COVID-19 has also caused:

  • Economic downturn resulting in significant job losses and financial strain on individuals, families and businesses;
  • Huge spikes in domestic violence and relationship break-downs;
  • Increases in Family Law disputes and Deceased Estate claims.

The saying ‘prevention is better than a cure’ could not be any more relevant than during this period of uncertainty and volatility. To properly protect themselves from the above effects of the pandemic, we recommend all our clients review their current Estate Planning and ask themselves the following important questions:  

  1. Have you made a Will with the assistance of a Wills and Estates specialist? Regardless of whether your estate is simple or complex, you should never attempt to write your own Will due to the risk of invalidity.
  2. Do you have an Enduring Powers of Attorney and Enduring Powers of Guardianship in the event you lose physical or cognitive capacity?
  3. Have you prepared Binding Death Benefit Nominations for your superannuation funds? Superannuation is not automatically distributed under your Will. You require the correct documents in place to ensure your superannuation death benefits are distributed to your loved ones as per your wishes.
  4. Are you aware of the tax minimisation strategies associated with thorough Estate Planning?

The Upside

It is not all bad news. The pandemic has also inspired legal firms across the globe to innovate and utilise existing and new technologies to deliver more efficient and cost-effective legal services. For example, due to lockdown restrictions, many law firms are now encouraging clients to provide instructions and finalise Estate Planning services remotely. While this method of legal service delivery has challenged the legislated and conventional requirements of preparing a Will (i.e., the requirement for two witnesses and a will-maker to physically meet and execute a Will), the upside is discounted legal services and increased convenience for clients due to a rise in online legal services.

A word of caution: There is no shortage of online providers of Estate Planning services and products, however, we strongly recommend that you prepare your Estate Planning documents with a company that specialises in Wills and Estates and will tailor your Estate Planning to your specific personal, financial, and legal requirements. In most cases, only a suitably qualified lawyer can do this.

The Wills and Estates specialists at Fortuna Legal are experienced and adaptive to client needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you require efficient and cost-effective Estate Planning services, please reach out to info@fortunalegal.com.au or call 9240 4211.

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