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The Montana Estate Lawyer

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Are you prepared if disaster strikes?

The most common response I hear when I ask if a person has finished  his or her estate planning is, “I’m not worried, I have plenty of time.”  People view estate planning as simply directing how their stuff is distributed.  Estate planning, however, is more involved than that.  Proper estate planning should address both what happens while you are alive and what happens after your death.  First, you should ensure you have named people you trust to make decisions on your behalf while you are still alive and that your affairs are organized enough that they are able to do so.  Second, you should clearly state your wishes for post-death distribution to help minimize potential costs and administration fees necessary to carry out your wishes. 

In the context of estate planning, I use “disaster” to refer to two types of situations: (1) you become suddenly incapacitated, such as in a car accident; or (2) you unexpectedly die.  Most of us think we have time to plan and prepare for a disaster, but this is rarely the case in reality. Life changes quickly and we often do not see disaster coming or have time to prepare.  Are your affairs really in order if such a disaster happens to you? 

We encourage business owners to walk their businesses through a scenario called “What if I die?”  This forces business owners to assess the strength of their business and the plans in place should catastrophe strike. Individuals should engage in a similar exercise. Are your affairs sufficiently organized that someone could step into your shoes to pay your bills if you are in an accident?  Would they be able to easily identify what you own if you are unavailable to be asked? Can they easily locate life insurance policies and other assets to ensure valuable property is not missed?  

Proper estate planning can ensure that you are protected and your wishes are carried out without unnecessary expense and delays.  We encourage you to review your existing estate planning documents to ensure all is in order. If your documents need to be updated or you haven’t done any estate planning, call us to discuss your options before it’s too late.

Heather


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