For those of us in northern Michigan, it has now been two weeks since the devastating storm of August 2nd. There was overwhelming property damage for some of us and we are not yet through digging out. It is amazing that there were not deaths and injuries. This is probably due to the fact that the storm hit in the afternoon when we could all see it coming and take cover. Would the result have been different if the storm had struck 12 hours later?
This highlights the need for estate planning – for all of us – young and old. A storm at 4:00 a.m. could have resulted in the loss of life and severe physical injuries. It would not have only fallen upon the older generation, but would have struck randomly to the young, the old, those who are married, those who are single.
Would you be prepared? You have property insurance and medical insurance – but do you have your affairs in order?
If you were severely injured, would your family or friends have the ability to assist in your medical decisions? They would if you have a Medical Power of Attorney or Patient Advocate Designation in place. Otherwise, they could not step in to assist when you need it most. It takes time, even in an emergency, to go to Probate Court to obtain a Guardianship.
Could they assist in handling your legal and financial affairs while you were hospitalized? Only if you have a Durable Power of Attorney in place. Otherwise, they would have to apply to the Probate Court for a Conservatorship. This is time consuming and expensive.
If you did not survive, is your estate in order? Have you made provisions for your minor children? Have you nominated a Guardian to care for them? A Conservator to handle the finances to raise them? For those without minor children, have you gotten all of your beneficiary designations in order? Do you have a Will or a Trust to direct the distribution of your estate?
Life can change in only an instant and without warning. It is important to be prepared for whatever comes. The storm of August 2015 should serve as a wake-up call for those who haven’t taken the time to address their estate planning needs and for those who thought they really didn’t need to.