You cannot always predict the future, but you can prepare for it. Creating an estate plan will ensure your ability to provide for your family in the event of a crisis.
Your estate plan will give your final instructions to an executor, your heirs, and, most importantly, a probate court. With time and thought, you can develop a plan that will meet your needs in most situations — whether they be natural disasters, terminal illnesses, wars, or other crises.
Crisis planning requires you to anticipate unforeseen situations. Contact the estate planning lawyers at Berkley Oliver to discuss your estate plan and the crises that you might need to address in it.
Planning for and During a Crisis
Every estate plan should be robust enough to address any unexpected circumstances that might arise. It should not matter how or when you die; your estate plan should be able to implement your instructions regardless of the crisis that triggers them.
You must also have a flexible plan that you can adjust if necessary — in other words, you may need to plan during a crisis. You could face a situation where the world fails to function as normal, even temporarily. The world saw something like this in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, lawyers worked from home, and courts ceased operating.
Thus, there is no guarantee that you will always be able to find a lawyer to adjust your plan if you need a change. For example, someone who is seriously ill might need to appoint an agent so their family can pay bills and deposit paychecks while they are in the hospital.
Issues to Consider While Crisis Planning
It may seem impossible to anticipate the unexpected. Instead of trying to imagine the exact crises you might face, an experienced estate planning attorney can walk you through some types of crises you might encounter and how you can meet them.
Creating a Living Trust
A living trust is an entity that owns your property. You and your estate planning lawyer create and fund the trust during your lifetime by transferring your important assets into the trust’s name. For example, you might transfer the deed to your home from you and your spouse to the trust.
Living trusts have many benefits. You are permitted to use the property during your lifetime, and as both trustee and beneficiary, you have total control over it. When you die, the property in your trust will not go through probate. Instead, the new trustee will transfer the property according to your instructions.
Since the transfer of your property does not rely on the probate process, it will not matter if the courts are functioning when you die. This means that the beneficiaries of your trust will take control of your property even if your death occurs during a natural disaster, pandemic, or similar catastrophe.
When you opened your financial accounts, your institution likely asked if you wanted to name any beneficiaries to receive ownership of your account when you die. This allows these accounts to pass directly to your beneficiary instead of going through probate.
More importantly, you can name beneficiaries and backup beneficiaries without a lawyer. This plan will allow you to adjust this portion of your estate plan even if a disaster prevents you from reaching your estate planning attorney.
Holding property jointly with the right of survivorship will allow your joint owner to take over your share of the property without going through probate. This is similar to naming a beneficiary on a financial account, but you will probably need a lawyer’s help to re-convey the property to add a joint owner who was not already on the title or deed.
For example, suppose that you bought a home before you married. After your marriage, you might decide you want your spouse to have full ownership of the home at your death. Your crisis planning lawyer can convey your property to you and your spouse as joint tenants with the right of survivorship. This way, your property can pass directly to your spouse.
Healthcare and Financial Powers of Attorney
If you become incapacitated for an extended period, you will need someone to:
- Pay your bills
- File your taxes
- Sell your property
- Take out loans and mortgages
- Manage investments
Without someone to take these actions, you could become destitute or incur significant debts during even a brief incapacity. You will also need someone to direct doctors in your medical care during your incapacity. This person may need to authorize medical treatment or even the withholding of medical treatment. Unfortunately, if a crisis occurs and you lose mental capacity, you will no longer be able to execute these powers of attorney. That’s why the time to act and get your affairs in order is now.
Your crisis planning lawyer can prepare financial and healthcare powers of attorney so you can appoint someone to make these decisions. Bear in mind that you do not need to appoint the same person to each of these roles. You can grant a financial power of attorney to your accountant and a healthcare power of attorney to your spouse.
Contact a Crisis Planning Lawyer
You can plan for a crisis even if you do not know the specific event that might befall you. Contact Berkley Oliver in Shelbyville, Kentucky, to discuss how you can insulate your estate plan against natural disasters and other catastrophes.