In this time of uncertainty and fear about the COVID 19 crisis, it’s more important than ever to take care of your personal and family estate and elder law planning needs. Especially now, to protect your family and your own future, it’s crucial to have adequate legal plans and arrangements in place to safeguard your interests against the risks posed by illness, incapacity or death.

Also, see comments below about new Federal legislation and benefits under the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.”

 ESTATE PLANNING    Make sure that you have valid, up-to-date legal planning documents in place, that accurately say what you want to have happen, and who you want to help you or carry out your intentions for you if necessary. At a minimum, a Financial and Business Power Of Attorney, Health Care Power Of Attorney with Living Will, and Last Will and Testament – often with Trust Provisions, and/or a separate Revocable or Irrevocable Trust – are necessary.

 ELDER LAW PLANNING     It’s never too late or too early to plan against the catastrophic cost of disability and long-term care.  Most Americans of a certain age will need long-term care at some point in their future. Call me to examine what you can be and should be doing to protect your assets and ensure that you will get what you need, when you need it.

CORONAVIRUS BENEFITS NOW.    New financial benefits and changes to retirement plan rules are also available now under the CARES Act to help people make it through the crisis.  Here is a summary of some benefits, payments, loans and credits that may be available. Many of the specifics of these new benefits and rule changes have yet to be determined and/or are changing frequently, so uncertainty abounds. This brief and general summary omits many details, but I hope it will help.

STIMULUS PAYMENTS FOR FAMILIES AND INDIVIDUALS.  As you probably have heard, a $2 trillion economic relief plan has become law, providing for cash stimulus payments to families, expanded unemployment benefits, student loan rules changes and more.

Cash payments to most individuals are in the works.  You don’t have to apply; if you filed a tax return you’ll automatically be included. The basic amount for each adult is $1200, though benefits will be reduced for higher earners depending on your adjusted gross income, and over the limit amount, no benefit. Payments are allocated based on income as reported for 2019, or if you have not yet filed for last year, then based on 2018 tax filings.

The IRS has promised to set up a website with answers and information about this program. Note that the law also temporarily suspends most tax refund garnishments to repay debts to the IRS

CHANGES TO RETIREMENT PLAN RULES   these changes apply to most retirement plans such as IRAs, inherited IRAs, 401(k) s, etc.  First, required minimum distributions (“RMD’s”) are suspended for 2020. That means if you’re over age 72 or for any other reason would have been required to take out a minimum required distribution this year, now you don’t have to.  This protects people from having to sell securities that are down in value, in order to make required distributions.

If you do take money out in 2020 for a reason related to coronavirus, you can pay it back over three years to avoid tax, or choose to pay the tax over three years. Coronavirus related reasons will be if you or a spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID 19 or if you experience negative financial impact or lost income from COVID 19 related quarantine, furlough, reduced hours, etc.

Also, the 10% penalty for taking early distributions during 2020 is waived, for withdrawals up to $100,000.

INCREASED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS.   Unemployment compensation varies from state to state but generally the bill funds up to an extra $600 per week, and for a broader range of unemployed persons than was previously eligible, now including self-employed people, independent contractors and others.  The program applies to those who are unemployed or have reduced pay for a broad range of reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.  Whether for yourself or a family member be aware that increased help is available

EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT. This legislation temporarily expands access to up to 12 weeks of family employment leave, for employers with less than 500 employees, for workers onboard for at least 30 calendar days. Expanded family and medical leave – either paid or unpaid – is available only to parents who need to care for a child because of a school closure.

EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT.    Emergency paid sick leave is available for employees who are unable to work because they are subject to legal quarantine, or exhibit coronavirus symptoms and are seeking medical diagnosis, or are needed to care for a parent or someone else with COVID 19