As estate planning attorneys at Clarity Legal Group®, serving Raleigh, Cary, Durham , Chapel Hill and surrounding areas, a big part of what we do is help people prepare for life’s unexpected challenges.
How’s the coronavirus for an unexpected challenge? Big, scary, and most of all, something that feels outside of our control. All of the good advice about facing this challenge is about dealing with the things you can control. Wash you hands, frequently, thoroughly, and discipline yourself to keep your hands away from your face. Take care of yourself at the onset of any illness. Resist gimmicks, and don’t hoard supplies that might be critical for healthcare providers or those who are sick and at risk.
The most pertinent advice I have is to be thoughtful, judicious and prepared. Take care of what you can control. In his 1932 inaugural speech, in the face of a damaged economy that was driving the American people to despair, Franklin Roosevelt made the memorable declaration that we had nothing to fear but fear itself. The full quote is revealing:
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance [emphasis added]. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”
Plan Out of Confidence not Fear
My view is that the Coronavirus doesn’t change anyone’s need to do estate planning or change the substance of anyone’s plan. It brings things into focus — makes the risks of not planning seem a little more real and exposes the folly of our natural inclination to procrastinate. So, if your planning was in order two months ago, it likely is still in order. If if wasn’t or you are not sure, maybe it is time to act to control what you can control. This makes a lot more sense than overpaying for black market hand sanitizer or hoarding face masks.
What can we learn from Roosevelt?
- Approach your estate planning not our of a fear of illness, incapacity or death, but with a sober appreciation of reality.
- Act decisively.
- Plan first to avoid getting sick, but prepare for what is needed should you contract the virus.
- Don’t be motivated or influenced by unreasonable, unjustified fear.
- Don’t let your reasonable fears paralyze you. If you need to put a plan in place, or update an existing plan, get it done.
- Think not just of yourself, but of your family and those who rely upon you, and of the larger communities of which you are a part.
Many people will never contract the coronavirus and most people who do will not die from the virus or related complications. But all of us will die someday, from something. How would a prolonged illness impact you and your family? Who will make healthcare and financial decisions for you should you be unable to do so? Who will faithfully wind up your affairs and ensure that your well-defined wishes are carried out?
A comprehensive estate plan puts in place legal documents that address both your possible incapacity and your death. It looks at all of your assets and accounts for how they will be managed during incapacity and how they can most efficiently pass to those you intend to inherit from you at death. It also involves organizing your assets to ensure that they are in sync with the legal documents intended to manage your affairs in event of incapacity — primary a General Durable Power of Attorney and a Revocable Living Trust — and those intended to be used for the administration of your affairs at death — that same Revocable Living Trust and your Last Will and Testament. It involves establishing a relationship with experienced professional advisors who can help your family and loved ones carry out your wishes.
Even after you have planned, we encourage clients to review their plan at least every four years, but also, anytime they need the peace of mind that would come from reviewing their plan and the key decisions which will impact its implementation and administration.
Some Life Events Should Trigger a Plan Review
While routine reviews are essential to keeping your plan current and functioning as intended, there are also some life events that should trigger a more immediate review to make sure things are in order.
So where does a potential or actual global pandemic fall on the scale of life’s changes. It’s a pretty big deal. If your planning is thorough and has been kept up to date with regular reviews, the attorneys and professionals at Clarity Legal Group® suggest you rest easy.
What if you have never had planning or have not kept the planning you have had up to date? It might be time to gain the peace of mind which comes from eliminating the uncertainty. Having a current and well prepared estate plan isn’t going to make you safe from the virus, and may not even calm concerns about the consequences of the virus. For me, as I take care of my health, focus on sleep and exercise, fastidiously wash my hands, and react decisively in the face of first sign of illness, I’m going to take the time to review my estate plan.
Contact the Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys of Clarity Legal Group®
If you have additional questions or concerns about when to update your estate plan, consult with one of our estate planning attorneys by calling us at 919-484-0012 or contact Clarity Legal Group® online.
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