I’ve always believed “the buck stops here” regarding protecting and providing for my family, no matter what. They are my responsibility, period. One of the ways that feeling manifests itself in me is that I’ve always had a stockpile of supplies, food, and water to last my family for months if normal services and goods aren’t available for whatever reason. My wife’s continually given me a hard time about the corner of the garage dedicated toward that endeavor until this weekend when she abruptly asked, “do we have enough food and water to get us through a quarantine if that happens?” I smiled, smugly, and responded, “we’re good; we’ll be okay.”
But while much of the focus has been on how to prevent catching the Coronavirus, or what to stock up on to survive if the pandemic wallops the U.S. like it has elsewhere, little has been mentioned on how to best legally and financially prepare for such a scenario. We know from what’s happening abroad that national economies as well as individual families are taking big financial hits in lost wages, not to mention the medical nightmare many people find themselves in. While panic and overreaction do more harm than good, I’m a big believer that you should always have your eyes wide open and ensure your family is prepared for these kinds of possibilities.
Here are five important tips to help you best prepare for the legal and financial aspects of a local Coronavirus epidemic or quarantine:
- Make Sure Your Medical Power of Attorney Is Accessible. Completing your medical power of attorney where you formalized your wishes for your medical care was a great first step, but make sure it would be accessible if/when it’s needed. Make sure the person you appointed to make your medical decisions if you are seriously ill or incapacitated knows where you keep the document. Also, file a copy with your primary care physician so it’s available through that avenue well before it’s needed, thus avoiding delays or confusion. If you have minor children, make sure they have a medical power of attorney as well, something we include with every Child Protection Plan.
- Nominate Temporary Guardians for Minor Children. Most estate plans will include a provision in a parent’s will nominating permanent guardians to raise their children if the parent passes away. However, few law firms offer a Nomination of Temporary Guardian form as well. Temporary guardians (AKA first responders) are 3-4 designated family members or friends who live within 20 minutes and have legal permission to care for your children in an emergency scenario (thus significantly limiting the chances that the State would have to step in). If you have not named temporary guardians for your children, you should contact your estate planning attorney right away.
- Make Sure You Have Enough Life Insurance. In my role as an estate planner, it surprises me how many families are either uninsured or considerably underinsured. Having a lone life insurance policy through your employer is rarely enough to cover what your family would need if you were to pass away during your working years. Plus, sometimes there are limiting provisions in those work policies requiring the death be caused by an “accident” as opposed to an illness such as the Coronavirus. You need to know how much life insurance you have and the exact death scenarios your policy covers. If you are not 100% certain that your existing insurance policies would cover your family’s needs, you should arrange for your existing life insurance policies to be reviewed by a trusted life insurance professional. Ask me for a referral if you don’t already have a trusted advisor in your corner.
- Have an Emergency Fund. A Coronavirus quarantine is likely to last 2-3 week, which is a significant amount of time to lose out on a paycheck or have your business shut down. Beyond that, a mass quarantine would certainly affect our overall economy, causing residual effects to your finances over time. Most people do not have more than $1,000 in emergency funds, according to financial expert Suze Orman. She recommends that families save at least eight-months’ worth of living expenses in non-retirement/accessible financial accounts to be sufficiently prepared for any unexpected life event. For business owners, you also need to have enough financial reserves for your business as well.
- Make Sure Your Trust is Funded. Setting up an estate plan is a great first step to protecting your loved ones in an emergency, illness, or death, as it ensures that your loved ones would be financially, emotionally, and physically taken care of. However, too many people fail to properly transfer their assets to their trust. Your estate planning attorney should help you make sure that your bank accounts, brokerage accounts, business interests, life insurance policies, real properties, retirement accounts, and your other financial assets are all properly connected to your trust. Without completing this very important step, those assets left outside your trust are subject to probate proceedings.
While individually, none of us can control a Coronavirus epidemic or quarantine from happening here, we can certainly make sure our families are legally and financially prepared. Call your trusted advisor or start by scheduling a complimentary planning session with a member of our team if you are not yet prepared, or to have your existing estate plan reviewed to ensure it has you as prepared as you should be.
Dedicated to empowering your family, building your wealth and defining your legacy,