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Being prepared for a natural disaster means having a well-stocked supply closet: extra toilet paper, clean water, batteries, and other necessities on hand. But being prepared also means having an estate plan in place.

Natural disasters, like the current coronavirus pandemic, create a lot of stress and suspense in life. While no one can ever fully prepare for these events, having an estate plan in place can provide some peace of mind. If you are no longer able to make decisions for yourself due to illness or injury or if you were to die, your loved ones won’t be burdened with decision-making and/or dealing with your estate without knowing your wishes. 

What Is Estate Planning?

Your estate plan will provide direction for your loved ones as well as help avoid tying up your financial assets in probate court, which can take a good deal of time as well as money. Estate planning is a set of written directions that say, ‘if I’m incapacitated, here is who I want to make medical and financial decisions for me.

Who Should Have An Estate Plan?

Whether you are a young person with no children and very few assets or midlife with considerable wealth, many properties, and a number of grandchildren, you should have an estate plan. 

If you don’t have an estate plan, the state has one for you, but chances are you won’t like it. An estate plan can help you avoid probate, plan for estate tax complications, and make the transfer of your assets a smooth process for your loved ones at a difficult time.

What Should Be Included In An Estate Plan?

An estate plan should include all financial directives, medical treatment planning, and if you have minor children, directions on guardianship for them. Your estate planner should walk you through an estate planning checklist to help you gather any necessary documents in addition to compiling an inventory of your possessions and assets.

We recommend the following documents be included in your estate plan:

Will: A will is a legal declaration in writing of an individual’s intention regarding the property of that individual after his/her death. A will may also include the appointment of a guardian for minor children.

Power of Attorney: Under a power of attorney, you can designate someone to act in your name and exercise your rights with respect to any property you own. This is beneficial if you become incapacitated.

Advance Directive for Health Care: You can delegate to someone of your choice the power to exercise virtually all rights you have to accept or reject medical care. Then, if you are incapable of indicating your intent, your physician may rely on the power holder to make all medical decisions, including the power to continue or terminate life support systems.