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How COVID-19 could influence estate plans

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused instability in financial markets and significant disruptions to the lives of those living in Illinois and throughout the country. However, in addition to the challenges that it has caused, the recent outbreak may also create estate planning opportunities. For instance, assets that have depreciated in value may be prime candidates to be gifted to beneficiaries now. This can be done either through a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) or by loaning the assets to a beneficiary.

By loaning or selling an asset, any future appreciation will be held outside of the current owner's estate. If assets are held in a trust, the current owner will retain access to them or any revenue that they generate. After a certain number of years, the assets that remain in the trust will be transferred to beneficiaries tax-free.

It may also be possible to put assets into a charitable lead annuity trust (CLAT). As the name implies, assets that are inside of the trust will be given to a charity as opposed to a family member or friend. Ideally, individuals will take time to review their estate plans to ensure that they are ready for economic changes or other challenges that the COVID-19 outbreak presents. If necessary, individuals should make changes to their wills, trusts or other documents that they have.

A variety of asset distribution strategies may be available to those who are looking to minimize estate or other taxes owed. An attorney might be able to help a person create an estate plan that is as efficient as possible. Legal counsel may also address other concerns such as avoiding probate or ensuring that beneficiaries use their inheritances in a responsible manner. Attorneys might help individuals review any plans that they currently have.

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