Estate of Emergency: COVID-19 Preparedness
After observing society over the last couple weeks, where shelves of toilet paper and hand sanitizer have been cleared out at the grocery store, it is apparent to me that we all value preventative measures. Our fridges are full, we are washing our hands every five minutes, and we are learning to adjust. Clearly, we are all preparing for the worst. The statistics out there suggest that while COVID-19 won’t affect the majority of us in a critical capacity, it will indeed make people very sick and unfortunately take many lives.
This of course makes me ask the important question: is your estate prepared? Is your will up to date? Do you have a medical directive? Last week my mother and I had the talk, the one we have whenever I get on a plane to scale the side of a rock face or she is concerned for the state of the world: Where are your passwords? Where can I find the numbers for your lawyer and accountant? My passwords are here, our will is in the safety deposit box at this bank, you are the beneficiary on these accounts should you need to take out money immediately.
I empathize with people that these are uncomfortable and challenging conversations to have with loved ones. No one wants to admit that we could get sick and no one wants to admit that we will pass away one day. However, as I have suggested numerous occasions in this blog, it is extremely important that parents and loved ones have these conversations with their children and executors BEFORE they are sick. As I tell the story here, I sat across from my father at the dining room table while he was dying of cancer and outlined every detail of his business’ operation. Thank goodness I did because that one piece of looseleaf paper became invaluable to me the next month when all of sudden I was CEO of a company I knew nothing about. However, I would have much preferred to leave that portion of estate and succession planning for a happier time in my life.
I don’t write this blog to scare people or intentionally make people upset. I write this blog because the situation you leave behind for your loved ones to deal with can be a freaking nightmare and there are very easy steps to at least minimize the stress. If you think that getting through to airlines is a nuisance during this pandemic, let me just tell you that your loved ones are in for a real treat with the court, banks, and mortgage companies. Unlike Delta, I haven’t seen anything in the media yet stating “Lenders Allow Borrows to Cancel, Reschedule, or Postpone Debt”. So unless you secured a 0% mortgage this week, your children will be on the hook. Don’t make your kids short sale your most valuable asset during the middle of a (potential) recession just because you didn’t make them a beneficiary on your bank account. They could have to wait up to 16 months to go through probate before they can access any of your funds.
I want to end this post on an important note. As I’ve written about before, estate planning isn’t just for people with significant assets. A Living Will, also known as an Advance Health Care Directive, is an important legal document stating your critical care desires should you become incapacitated. Again, this is not a matter of wealth. It is a tool that you can prepare while you are healthy to decrease the burden on your loved ones in emotionally sensitive times. A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints a person that will act on your behalf should you be incapable of making decisions. HIPPA Authorization allows a loved one to speak to the doctors about your health specific needs. Lastly, you need to eliminate any guesswork about sensitive subjects such as resuscitation. Google “Do Not Resuscitate” for more information.
We all have a lot of time on our hands at the moment while we are mandated to stay inside. Let’s all get organized, prepare, and start those uncomfortable; yet crucial conversations. Don’t know where to start? I always suggest people check out trustandwill.com (no, I am not sponsored by them) and give Investopedia.com a good read. These are great resources to start