Americans have spent countless hours preparing or trying to figure out simply how to prepare for the unknowns that accompany the pandemic that has now reached our community. I think the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” never rang more true than it does today. Having an up to date estate plan will no doubt be of great benefit to you and your family should you become ill; but as an added benefit, feeling prepared can help alleviate the some of the stress that accompanies the “what-ifs” our society is currently facing. Thus, I write this article not to sound doomsday-ish, but to provide some practical pointers to hopefully help my readers feel more prepared and less stressed during this time.
As we all adjust to the new cultural concept of social distancing, many have found themselves at home with newfound free time. This is a great time to organize and do a little spring-cleaning, or paperwork reduction, as I like to call it. Organizing is an essential part of estate planning. During a period of incapacity or upon death, family members are faced with the difficult task of carrying on their loved one’s business and carrying out wishes in the face of an emotionally charged event. This is especially difficult when families do not know who to turn to or where to turn. So, make a roadmap of your life to give your loved ones some direction. Make a list of all your assets, liabilities, advisors, and any other important information. While you are at it, clean out old paperwork that serves no purpose and will only muddy the water. Get rid of information related to assets you no longer have. De-cluttering has practical benefit, but it also has the psychological benefit of reducing anxiety.
While you are organizing, make sure that you can locate your estate planning documents and that you have easy access to a copy, especially your healthcare documents. Your appointed decision-makers should also know where to look for the documents should the need arise. If you need to get a plan in place or update an existing plan, technology allows attorneys to meet with clients remotely via videoconference or telephone and still adhere to social distancing recommendations. You can use your quarantine time to check another box off of your to-do list.