The pandemic has pushed people to consider their own mortality, according to Rob Strauss, an estate planner and a partner at Weinstock Manion law firm in Los Angeles.

High-net-worth clients in large numbers have been contemplating how they want to distribute and protect assets for the last several months,  he said.

“There was a significant falloff in activity in the beginning [of the pandemic] as people hunkered down, but then they got busy. In the last few months we have been busier than ever before helping clients with their plans. There has been a rush to engage in estate planning,” said Strauss in a recent interview. Strauss serves mostly high-net-worth clients. “From a psychological perspective, clients realize they need to revisit their plans.”

In many cases, Covid-19 affected the value of assets, especially the value of businesses, but it affected value across all asset classes, Strauss said. “A client may have had an asset valued at $10 million a year ago that he or she wanted to use as a gift and now it is only worth $6 million,” he said. The tax advantages or disadvantages of gifting now have to be considered, he said.

The low interest-rate environment also has to be brought into the decision making for estate and legacy planning, the attorney said. Any loans that are made or received will be subject to minimal rates for some time to come.

Some clients may want to take advantage of more complex planning tools such as an intentionally defective grantor trust, which is a somewhat confusing name for a hybrid trust that is treated in different ways for gift and estate tax purposes, he said. The hybrid trust allows the creator to sell assets to the trust. The assets are then not considered part of the estate for some tax purposes.

A political consideration also can enter the already complicated realm of estate planning, Strauss noted. The exemption for estate taxes now stands at $11 million for an individual or about double that for a couple. That amount, on which estate taxes do not have to be paid, is set to be cut in half by 2026 and may be cut sooner if there is a change in administrations in Washington.

“Some of our wealthy clients are anxious to use the exemption amount now before it may change,” he said. “All of those factors play into advisors’ clients’ decisions now.”