We’re all living through an unprecedented time in world history. Since first appearing in China near the end of last year, the COVID-19 outbreak has grown into a global pandemic. As confirmed cases of the virus continue to rise, the once-theoretical mortality rate is becoming a heart-breaking reality for tens of thousands of families.
At JacksonWhite Law, our sympathies go out to everyone affected by the current crisis. In the event that the worst comes to pass and you lose a loved one to the novel coronavirus, you should know what steps to take next.
Celebrate Your Loved One’s Life
Dealing with a loss is never easy, and unfortunately the public restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19 make grieving even harder. Funerals and memorials offer closure, and while it still may be months before you can give your loved one a proper send-off, there are still things you can do to celebrate your loved one’s life.
You could set aside a space in the house to collect mementos, create a collage of your favorite photos, or gather with the members of your household and trade your favorite stories of the person who has passed. It’s important, especially in times like these, to focus on the positive as much as possible.
Handling Final Medical Expenses
While getting tested for the coronavirus is now free, medical expenses associated with the disease sadly are not. Unfortunately, that means if your loved one died of COVID-19, there could be some sizable hospital bills to be paid in addition to traditional final expenses.
One possible silver lining in all of this is that a number of medical care providers offer payment plans to help disperse the incurred debts. Still, given the money that could be needed for these expenses, it’s recommended that you and your loved ones have proper legal documents in place to make the distribution of inheritance go smoothly.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process of authenticating a person’s last will and testament. Although this may sound simple, the process is often arduous and time-consuming.
During probate, a judge will attempt to verify that the last will and testament of the deceased is valid and that his or her wishes are carried out accordingly. Other parts of the process involve covering the costs of the deceased’s final bills, determining the value of his or her assets, and properly distributing those assets to the correct beneficiaries.
Depending on the size of the estate, this process can take months or even years to complete. And during that time, beneficiaries can rack up a small fortune in legal payments, appraisers’ fees, and court costs. In all, these expenses can easily amount to thousands of dollars. Also, as the probate process drags on, beneficiaries are denied access to money from the estate that they may sorely need to cover final expenses.
Given the headaches of probate, it’s obviously best to avoid probate altogether. So what’s the best way to do that? Although a clear and valid last will can help to streamline probate, sometimes it’s not enough to circumvent the process entirely. Fortunately though, there are some simple steps that you and your loved ones can take to increase the odds that your beneficiaries never have to worry about going through probate.
Create a Revocable Living Trust
A common alternative to a last will and testament, a living trust places all of your property and assets into a trust. At that time, you can elect which beneficiaries will inherit which parts of your estate. Upon death, a trustee will then ensure that the inheritance is distributed according to your wishes, thereby eliminating the probate process entirely.
Establish Joint Ownership
Property that is co-owned automatically goes to the surviving partner upon the other one’s death. Therefore, it’s a good idea to set up real estate holdings so they’re jointly owned by two parties. That way, they can be transferred seamlessly.
Name Beneficiaries to Your Accounts
The simple process of naming beneficiaries on your financial accounts can save your loved ones a lot of headaches during probate. This kind of designation can be done for a wide range of items, including bank accounts, retirement plans, pension payouts, and investment accounts, such as 401Ks and IRAs.
Work with an Arizona Probate Attorney
With the tension and heartache surrounding the coronavirus, handling financial matters after the passing of a loved one should be the least of your concerns. That’s why the dedicated team at JacksonWhite Law is ready to help with all of your probate needs. If you or a loved one would like assistance making future financial plans, contact an Arizona probate attorney today.
Call our Probate team at (480)467-4365 to discuss your case today.