As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our daily lives in unprecedented ways, in addition to staying safe and caring for our loved ones, one of the most important things we can do is look for lessons we can learn in order to prepare ourselves for the future. Regardless of whether life will ever truly be the same, the time to move on will come; and, when it does, we will all need to adjust to whatever the “new normal” has in store.
The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Teach Us Many Different Lessons
Among the innumerable important lessons that the coronavirus pandemic teaches us, one lesson it teaches is that it is important to plan ahead. Unexpected events can happen; and, when they do, knowing that you are prepared can provide an invaluable sense of comfort for you and your family.
In particular, the coronavirus pandemic teaches us about the importance of estate planning. Tragically, many people will lose their lives due to the effects and complications of COVID-19. Many more will recover from being sick, but the process will be scary, difficult, and rife with complicated questions. So, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to reshape life in America, what should Florida residents know about estate planning?
Here are seven important estate planning considerations related to the COVID-19 crisis:
1. You Are Never Too Young to Have an Estate Plan
First, regardless of your age, regardless of your finances, and regardless of your current health condition, it is important to have an estate plan. We are not able to predict the future – the sudden and enormous impact of the coronavirus outbreak has taught us that with great effect – and this makes it important to plan ahead to the extent that we can.
If you get sick and are unable to communicate, who will talk to your doctors for you? How will they know what to say? If you were to die unexpectedly, what would happen to your property and, far more importantly, to your children? These are just a few of the many important questions you can answer in advance by preparing an estate plan.
2. You Are Never Too Old to Prepare an Estate Plan
By the same token, you are never too old to plan for the future. If you have overlooked or neglected putting together an estate plan, or if it has been years or decades since you put your plan together, now is the time to act. Make sure your loved ones know what to do if you get sick, make sure your doctors have clear instructions, and make sure your assets will be distributed as you intend.
3. Estate Planning Is About More Than Gifting Your Property
As we have indicated already, estate planning is about much more than determining how your assets will be distributed at the time of your death. This is indeed an important aspect of estate planning, but it is ultimately just one component of the overall estate planning process. In addition to the preservation and distribution of your property, a comprehensive estate plan will also address:
- Guardianship of your minor children
- Financial planning and management in the event of incapacity
- Health care decision making in the event of incapacity
- Life-saving treatment measures
- Who will be responsible for managing your final affairs
- What should happen in the event of a disagreement or dispute
- What should happen if a change in circumstances renders any aspect of your estate plan inapposite or unenforceable
4. Unexpected Events Can Happen at Any Time
The coronavirus pandemic was completely unexpected. While the news media have portrayed the pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime event, there is certainly nothing to suggest that a similar event is incapable of occurring in the future.
Additionally, even if we do not experience another pandemic during our lifetime, other unexpected events are going to occur. From car accidents to cancer diagnoses, many different types of events can change our lives in the blink of an eye. If you have planned ahead, you might not be able to prevent these events from happening, but you can make sure that your loved ones are protected.
5. It Is Important to Plan for Contingencies
In many respects, preparing an estate plan is about preparing for the unknown. While this largely focuses on the unknowns in our own lives (e.g., whether we will get sick or injured), there are external contingencies that need to be addressed as well. For example:
- What if your employer goes under and this has a substantial negative impact on your income or retirement?
- What if one of your designated beneficiaries predeceases you?
- What if your health care surrogate or personal representative gets sick and is unable to manage your affairs?
These are just a few examples of the types of external contingencies that you can (and should) address during the estate planning process.
6. You Cannot Predict What Other People Will Do
From the politicians who make decisions for all of us to the doctors who treat those who are seriously or fatally ill, there is simply no way to predict what others will do in times of crisis. In order to ensure that you retain as much control over your own personal situation as possible, you need to have a plan that provides clear direction for your doctors and loved ones.
7. We Don’t Know What the Future Holds
Ultimately, the main thing the coronavirus pandemic teaches us is that we don’t know what the future holds. We can spend years or decades building the life we want, and something we never expected can threaten it in an instant. From an estate planning perspective, the message is clear: Given all that we cannot control, it is important to control what we can.
Speak with an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer in Jacksonville, FL
If you have questions about estate planning and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to get in touch. To schedule a remote consultation with one of our estate planning lawyers, call us directly or inquire online today.