April 10, 2020 at 6:12 am EDT | by Tim Lyons
Proper pandemic estate planning
estate planning, gay news, Washington Blade

We are in the midst of a global pandemic. Although you should seek out comedy and other things for self-care this is here because it is time to talk about estate planning. Get an estate plan in place. Now. While you are either at home from work because of COVID-19 or forced to work during the public health crisis. Without a plan, you will end up in Probate Court. The probate process is time consuming and expensive and with the projected COVID-19 deaths those court dockets are about to become even more crowded. More importantly, your wishes will not be followed unless you have them written in a properly executed estate plan.

LGBTQ people especially need an estate plan. The law is set up in a heteronormative way. So, the default rules of who gets your stuff if you die are stacked toward people who may or may not have been supportive of you during your life. Thanks to marriage equality, it would go to your spouse if you chose to get married. Otherwise, it goes to your family of origin. First, any kids. If no kids, then parents. If no living parents, then siblings and then grandparents and so on. So for us LGBTQ people it could go to people who never accepted us for who we are. While imagining a homophobic father receiving his son’s drag wigs and vibrators in the mail is funny, it is not necessarily the process we want to see play out except in a show or movie.

In some ways, you’re dead so who cares, right? Also, it is just material possessions so who cares? I cannot argue the second question but you want those to whom you were closest to be the ones you leave with things to remember you by and so get a lawyer and write it down in a plan. Why should your homophobic family get what you earned (even if you have a supportive family there may be some charity or friend who you’d rather see get the benefit).

Nobody likes to talk about death. It’s the great unknown, but it is coming anyway. As with all things it is easier to grieve if there is a plan. If you have a plan around your possessions in place then friends and family can just be there (although these days more likely on Zoom) to mourn and tell funny stories or remember you in different ways. They do not also have to mobilize to figure out what forms to file in court and what to do with the your possessions. Not to mention, where are those possessions? With whom did the deceased person bank? Did they rent storage units? Did they have time shares?

Having an estate plan is like doing laundry. Not the most fun task, but once it is done and put away you really feel like you’ve accomplished something. So contact an estate planning attorney today.

If the sentiments above are not enough, here’s the cash incentive to get a plan in place. Attorney’s fees in Probate Court on a $1,000,000 estate (which is low if you own a home) are $23,000. Everything is based on the gross value of the estate, meaning regardless of mortgages. Estate plans vary from a couple hundred dollars online to a couple thousand dollars with a private law firm.

The online ones seem fine, but if something is done incorrectly during the estate planning process you end up back in Probate Court wasting time and money. Those $600 online did not get you what you wanted. This happens all the time (you see it everyday in Probate Court). As I like to say “when Tim writes your will, you get your way.” There are many great estate planning attorneys out there who serve our community. Each of us wants your wishes followed. Call or email and get this process going today. You are quarantined at home; you have no excuses left.

Tim Lyons is an estate planning and probate attorney who has been practicing law for nine years. He lives as a plus one as a faculty in residence at UCLA with his husband Mike.

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