Plan Ahead During Coronavirus Pandemic | Florida Law Blog

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Plan Ahead During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Written by Jordan W. Jacob, Esq.

April 16, 2020
Ari and friends use face masks during pandemic

The COVID-19 coronavirus has created an unprecedented situation for many of us. We all have made changes in our lives to adapt, and we are not sure when the world will get back to normal (it will soon, don’t worry!) It is unfortunate, but many of us do not think about planning for the future until something bad happens.  Whether it enters your mind after learning about an old classmate who passed away too young, experiencing family turmoil after the loss of a family member without Last Will, or living through a health pandemic.

Get your affairs in order now to take care of your family and loved ones later.

No matter the reason, at this point in life, we should all get our affairs in order to provide guidance and care for our loved ones in the event something bad should happen to us. This includes estate planning, purchasing life insurance, funding investment or retirement accounts, and having THE TALK with your family and loved ones. Recently, I read a tragic story about a young man who was otherwise healthy, but died of coronavirus soon after visiting Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.  Nobody expects something like this to happen, especially people who are healthy and making plans for their own futures. Sometimes the worst does happen. If it does, you want the people you love to be able to grieve properly, without leaving them with a mess of confusion on top of it all. CURRENT FLORIDA COVID-19 FACTS (as of 4/16/2020 per Florida Health):

Confirmed Cases – 23,340; Confirmed Deaths – 668 Miami-Dade County – 8,326 cases; 183 deaths Broward County – 3,466 cases; 101 deaths Palm Beach County – 1,867 cases; 112 death

Now, think about your own situation. What will happen to your loved ones, and the assets and legacy you leave behind, if you become sick or die? Without a doubt, you would want to ensure certain people in your life are informed if you have to go to the hospital. Moreover, you want them kept up to date on your condition while you are there. You would also probably want to avoid them having to go through a drawn-out court process to handle your estate after your death. Likewise, you would want to save them from the fate of not being able to access your assets if you are hospitalized. This article is all about you having the tools you need to make sure everything is in place to do the right thing for the people you love, just in case something happens to you.

Stick figures of all backgrounds wear masks to prevent coronavirus

The Things You Can Do Yourself

First of all, you need to have a worst-case scenario conversation with your family. You are an adult. It is time to have this talk. A lot of people try to avoid conversations about death, but the truth is, we will all die.

FACT: 10 out of 10 people die of death.

It is better to face that fact with those that you love. When the time comes, you and they will be as ready as you all can be. Moreover, having THE TALK does not have to be difficult or stressful. In fact, it can be cathartic and a true weight off your shoulders if done properly.

Update Your Health Care Directives

This is extra important if you want your loved ones to know exactly how and when you want certain medical decisions made for you if you are unable to communicate those directions yourself.  Do NOT delay reviewing and updating these critical medical documents. An Advance Health Care Directives has, at minimum, three parts:

  1. The Living Will Declaration, which states how you want end-of-life medical decisions to be made for you.
  2. The Designation of Health Care Surrogate (aka “Medical Power of Attorney”), which states who should make these medical decisions if you cannot make them yourself.
  3. A HIPAA Release that allows medical professionals to disclose information to your Medical Power of Attorney/Agent.

Each of these documents work together to ensure that decisions about your health care are made based on your wishes in the event you cannot express them. Your designated health care surrogate is obligated to follow your written directions instead of guessing what you wanted or imposing their own beliefs over your health care. You can refer to one of my latest articles for more information on how exactly to prepare your health care directives.

Name Legal Guardians for Your Kids

A very important step in #adulting for all parents of minor children is to name legal guardians for them. Take a minute to think about what would happen to your kids if something were to happen to you, for both the long term and the immediate future.

Simply saying you want someone to take care of your kids when you are gone is not enough. Authorities will not follow your wishes unless they are put in a proper legal document.

Just because you know grandma and grandpa will take care of the kids if something happens to you does not mean grandma and grandpa will have the legal authority to have custody of your kids (of that they want that responsibility!). What if grandma and grandpa have already passed before something happens to you? Do you have willing backups in mind? The best way to ensure the people you want to be your kids’ legal guardian(s) is have written nominations of short-term and long-term guardians and health care surrogates for your minor children. If this is something you still need to take care of, you can read more about the importance of having properly named guardians and health care surrogates for your minor children by checking out my Kids Protection Plan® page and the documents included in it. Also, I have created a webpage where you can name permanent guardians for your kids, for free, and start putting together your Kids Protection Plan®.

Create an Inventory of What Matters

Recently, I told you why it was important to have a “personal resource map” to ensure, in the event something happens to you, your loved ones know what you have, where it is and how to access it; what are your final wishes; and what makes up your human legacy. Creating a personal resource map is something you can get started on right now, by yourself, without the help of a lawyer. I even made it easy to do on your phone! All you need to do to get started is set aside one hour to take an inventory of everything in your life that is important to you; both material assets and your intellectual, spiritual and human assets. Next, using the free tool provided on my website, create your own Personal Resource Map. That’s it!  After completing your map, I will send you a print out to keep safe and share with your family so they know what to do if something should happen to you. Important Note — Your Personal Resource Map will not handle the following:

  • A guarantee that your loved ones won’t have to go to court;
  • Directing your assets to anyone other than your “next of kin” according to Florida law;
  • Ensuring health care decisions are made for you, as you want (the map is not a Will or a Health Care Directive);
  • Making sure your unmarried partner can stay living in your house

However, your Personal Resource Map will help your family better understand everything that is important to you, where to find your things and how to access them if something happens to you, and what makes up your human legacy.  Equally important, your map will help you get organized and prepared to talk to an estate planning lawyer to set up your own estate planning documents.

Ari and friend shake hands in front of gears

Things You’ll Need a Lawyer’s Help With

The goal in setting up your estate plan is, ultimately, to keep your loved ones out of the court process and out of conflict. To do that, you have to keep your estate plan up to date, and ensure you have made the right decisions in the estate planning process. Under the following circumstances, you should not just do planning yourself, but instead have a Family Wealth Planning Session with me, during which we can look at your family dynamics, your assets, and the current laws so you can decide what you really do need for the people you love:

  • If you have assets, beyond what you can physically see and touch, and those assets are worth more than $100k;
  • If you live with your unmarried partner in a house that one of you owns and the other doesn’t (or even if you own it together);
  • If you have minor children and your named guardians don’t live locally to you;
  • If you are in a second (or more) marriage;
  • If you have complex family dynamics;
  • If you have a business you want to continue after you are gone;
  • If you know for sure you would want to keep your family out of court no matter what.

Final Thoughts

To get started with your estate planning, please fill out a Florida Estate Planning Inventory & Assessment form and schedule your estate planning design session.  If you are not ready to plan and have some questions, schedule a no-cost initial consultation with me.  All of my initial consultations and Family Wealth Planning Sessions are happening virtually these days, and I can make the whole process quite easy and affordable for you and the people you love. Check out my current availability now.

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