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Planning in times of uncertainty

The coronavirus outbreak has flipped much of the world upside down.  It has led to fear and uncertainty, and has left many people feeling helpless.

It has also caused many people to reflect, and to think about the things that they wish they'd done.

One of these things, of course, is preparing for their life and, eventually, death.  This is not an easy thing to think about, but we all know that it is an important one.

As with most things in life, the coronavirus outbreak has taught us several lessons.

  • A trust is a safe way to pass assets when the system is frozen

As of the date of this writing (March 24, 2020), the court system in New York has effectively stopped.  Other than urgent matters, everything else is frozen.  This includes Surrogate's Courts, which handle applications for probate, among other things.

Why is this important?

If you had a family member pass away over the last several months, with a Will, your family probably hired a lawyer to handle the estate.  Well, if that lawyer filed paperwork to have the Will approved – which is required in New York – it will likely be several months until that Will is approved for probate and the Estate can be administered.

Which, of course, could be a problem.

If, on the other hand, you had a family member pass away with a well written and fully funded Trust?  Well, in that case the Trustee has probably already begun administering the assets of the Estate, and things should be moving in an orderly manner.

The problem is that even in good times Surrogate's Courts are typically backlogged – and can often take months to approve a Will, or close out an Estate.  Situations like this only compound the problem.

  • It's more important than ever to realize that you need to designate the people who will make decisions for you and talk to your providers. And you need to do it now.

There have been many stories of people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus, only to start recovering, and then take a turn for the worse.  This is both horrific for the individual, and similarly awful for the family.  But if that person had the right documents in place?  Well, at a minimum their family members could be there to talk with the doctors, make decisions and ensure that the right steps were taken when they needed to be – and this includes financial decisions. 

Proper planning ensures that in difficult situations the right decisions are made, by the right people.  But the time to plan is not during a crisis, it's before one.

  • Planning to protect your children can never happen too early.

We often talk to parents about making plans to protect their family ahead of time.  To ensure that, in the worst case, there is a plan in place to protect their children.  Now more than ever this becomes real. 

You never want to be in a situation where a court will make decisions about who will take care of your children – especially a situation where that court is operating under extreme circumstances, as courts are at this very moment.

Difficult situations offer us an opportunity to stop, pause, and think about the actions that we need to take to protect ourselves and our families.  Now is the time to take the steps that you know you need to take to protect yours.

Click here to schedule a virtual Estate Planning and Family Protection Session today.

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