Prepare for the unexpected with an estate plan

How to Expect the Unexpected (When the Unexpected is Unimaginable)

The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing on. We are a little more than nine months into this thing, and there is no clear sign of an end ahead. I don’t write this to be a downer — but rather to take honest stock of what is going on in the lives of those in my community.

You may be back to work. You may be preparing for a new and strange holiday season. But, despite all we do to try to bring normalcy back into our lives, there is a real truth hanging over us: we can never really anticipate what lies ahead.

So, what is the point of me raising this well-known truth? To let you know that there are some things you can do to prepare for the unexpected, even when the unexpected is unimaginable. As we come to the end of 2020, let’s do what we can to prepare ourselves for more change and uncertainty in the coming year.

Let’s Start at Home

This month, let’s start right at home. Next month, we will expand out to include what you can be doing with your business to prepare for unknowns ahead; but, for now, let’s focus on family.

Use Your Estate Plan to Protect More than Your Money

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that health and security are not a given. We must be vigilant to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Sometimes, vigilance includes wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. Other times, vigilance looks like an estate plan. Estate planning, as I see it, is not really about protecting your wealth. Of course, that is an element of estate planning. However, the most important elements of a comprehensive estate plan (to me) are:

  • Providing for guardianship of your minor children,
  • Establishing a trusted individual who can make financial, business, and medical decisions on your behalf,
  • Communicating your medical preferences and end-of-life wishes,
  • and Easing potential conflicts between your loved ones by creating a clear set of instructions for after you are gone.

When creating a comprehensive estate plan, I like to start with the most important things first: your family and your health. Once we get through these critical matters, we can zoom out and take a look at your assets, your businesses, and your financial legacy. All of these are important elements of your plan, too. But, when it comes to family, there is nothing more important.

Estate Plans Solve Conflicts Before They Even Begin

I’ve seen this happen countless times: when something goes wrong (like a health crisis, an accident, or death), family members and loved ones rally around. They all want to help, and they all want to do what is best. But, there is rarely consensus about what truly is “best.” That’s where a clear set of instructions are crucial. An estate plan communicates the incapacitated person’s wishes and lays out clear guidelines for how to handle a challenging and emotionally-fraught situation. Who should care for the person’s minor children? Look to the estate plan. Who is empowered to speak to medical professionals, help in making decisions, and even be in the room? Check the estate plan. What about the home, the business, the bills? Who will keep things running? It’s all in the estate plan. Do you see how making a few strategic decisions in advance can dissolve potential conflict among your loved ones? It’s truly one of the kindest things you can do.

Once We’ve Addressed Important Family Matters, We Can Turn to the Assets

After resolving important matters like guardianship, advance medical directives, HIPAA authorizations, and living wills, we can turn to your assets. This is where the more traditionally-recognized parts of estate planning come into play. If you become ill or die, who will take care of your business? Who will pay your bills? Do they know where to find your assets? What about your insurance policies? All of your various assets need to be gathered, organized, and placed into the context of a plan.

Here in the state of Florida, you can choose whether to have your assets pass to your loved ones through the probate process (either in accordance with state default laws or through your Will), or you can choose to skip the probate process and create a trust. There are many different ways to organize your assets through your estate planning, and what you choose will depend on your family structure, your business interests, and your goals. Luckily, estate plans are entirely customizable, so that you can create a comprehensive plan that serves your unique needs.

Don’t Let 2020 Pass You By Without Creating a Plan

This has been a tough year. I know a lot of people are still suffering from the medical, financial, and emotional impacts of this pandemic. But we can’t let this year pass us by without taking steps to prepare ourselves for more change in the future. We know it’s coming, and we can’t look the other way. If you don’t yet have an estate plan in place, let’s talk. Whether you feel you are “ready” or not, I promise you, you need an estate plan. Let’s get it done together. Click here to schedule a call with The Brand Protected ® to get started.