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Estate Planning: Recent Engagements During COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Orange County, Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC has received numerous requests for assistance. A typical inquiry ... "We communicated about a year ago and I failed to follow up, as I got distracted and made planning a low priority. COVID-19 serves as a good reason for me to get my act together regarding wills and trusts. I would like to get this process moving and want to know how to best proceed. Are there updated documents you need? Can we do the entire process virtually?"

These inquiries point out the need to do comprehensive estate planning — and to avoid being unprepared to deal with the impact of any lengthy illness or death. Our attorneys help clients prepare for these difficult decisions, providing expert guidance throughout each step of the process.

It might be helpful to demonstrate how we can help through a couple of our recent engagements during the pandemic:

Case #1 -- Family business and simplified marital estate planning: Many of our clients have small family-owned businesses and desire succession planning as a key aspect of their estate plan. In this case, our clients were a couple looking ahead toward retirement in a few years, expecting their adult child to move up in the family business and assume full control and ownership.

The couple had an existing estate plan but it was nearly 100 pages long and overly complicated. The former attorney provided too many options, making it difficult to understand and even harder to implement. Since the couple had never been remarried and other complications did not exist, it was unnecessary to make the estate plan complex.

Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC crafted a plan that met this couple's specific needs, including a straightforward living trust (and will), durable power of attorney, beneficiary designations, letter of intent, healthcare power of attorney, and guardianship designations. The plan was simple to implement and steps are currently underway to file deeds of trust and other related documents. The clients were very content in knowing that their business will be passed along as planned and all other estate details are in order.

Case #2 -- Conservatorship turned to Inheritance and Business Succession Planning: In this recent matter, a client had previously asked Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC to prepare a conservatorship for the elderly father and his son as conservator. When the father recently passed, the son inherited the business and needed to update his own estate plan. A few complications existed due to family structure and specific desires for asset disposition.

Key goals of the plan included: establishing community property rights for the spouse, including substantial real estate wealth; planning for one of the children to eventually take over the business; and working with the family's business transactions attorney to structure buyout options for other children not involved in the business. This estate plan is currently underway and we are communicating regularly with the client as each step is completed.

Video of the Month: Conservatorships

A conservatorship is established for an adult person who is unable to handle his or her own financial or personal affairs. The conservator (person who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person) can be a parent, spouse, child, other relative, friend, or professional conservator. We want our clients to be as informed as possible about the important decisions they're making, so learn more about conservatorships in our video.

Ready to Assist You

The attorneys at Mortensen & Reinheimer, PC are available to help you. All of our staff are working remotely, keeping our law corporation operational. Since in-person meetings are not an option for most at this time, we can assist clients through "virtual" telephone or video conferences. In addition, most of the follow-up legal and administrative work can be done remotely and by email/mail. Our goal is to help you move forward with your estate planning issues, even in the midst of these very trying times that we are all facing.