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The 1 Move You Must Make During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Maurie Backman - Apr 6, 2020 at 7:18AM

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Here's one key financial move you can't afford to put off.

The COVID-19 crisis isn't just costing Americans their freedom and jobs; it's also forcing millions to contemplate their own mortality. Though the majority of those infected with COVID-19 are able to recover at home, an estimated 20% need hospitalization, and in the absence of widely approved treatment, those who reach the ICU can deteriorate rather quickly.

It's for this reason that a large number of Americans are scrambling right now to create a will, and if you don't have this important document in place, it's crucial that you create one immediately -- just in case.

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Why you need a will

It's estimated that only 37% of Americans have a will, but without one, you'll risk having little to no say over what happens to both your assets in the event of your passing. In fact, you'll often hear people say things along the lines of, "I'm not rich and have very little money to my name, so who cares who gets it after I pass?" But in reality, even if you only have a modest level of assets, it pays to put a directive in place so your wishes are carried out.

And then there's the matter of caring for your children if you happen to pass and they don't have another living parent. Clearly, that's not something you want to leave to chance, nor do you want to leave your family members to quarrel over who will or will not assume the responsibility of putting a roof over your kids' heads.

How to create a will quickly

You have two options for creating a will -- you can use an attorney to draft one for you, or create one online. The latter option is generally cheaper, but in doing so, you risk glossing over certain nuances that may prove important in the event of your passing. And if your estate is at all complicated, it pays to spend a little extra for an attorney. The good news is that many lawyers are equipped to work with you remotely to create a will, so that option is certainly on the table even in an age of social distancing.

Of course, creating a will generally isn't enough; you also need to have witnesses present when you sign that will, as well as a notary to validate it. But some states are already allowing for remote witnesses and notarization, so it's worth seeing what options are available to you.

Other estate-planning documents to consider

In addition to a will, it pays to get a durable power of attorney, which designates someone to make financial decisions on your behalf if you're unable to do so. And it's also smart to designate a healthcare proxy -- someone who can make medical decisions on your behalf. An attorney can help you determine which estate-planning documents will benefit you.

A will is something you need to have even when the country isn't deep in the throes of a major health crisis. But given the circumstances at hand, now's really not the time to put off creating a will if you don't have one already. That one document could give you and your loved ones peace of mind at a time when every bit of comfort goes a long way.

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