The last few weeks in Tennessee and our nation have been unprecedented. We experienced one of the most destructive tornadoes the state has dealt with since the destruction of downtown Clarksville in 1999. Shortly afterwards, we moved on to deal with the coronavirus that seemed to have exploded overnight, leading to empty shelves of toiletries and basic food items at Wal-Mart, Publix, and Kroger. What's more: an underlying fear of what's about to happen. And that kind of fear leads to unexpected challenges.
While it is likely that this sudden fear and desire to horde food and toilet paper will die down soon, during this crisis we cannot help but think about our own mortality. What happens if we suddenly die and we have not completed an estate plan? To be sure, the vast, vast majority of us will emerge from this crisis unscathed healthwise. But we should take a step back and consider our plan and make sure we have our affairs in order.
First thing first, the coronavirus is serious, especially for those who are elderly. Even so, the risk of dying is very small. Plus, you can take precautions:
- Wash your hands.
- Don't touch your face.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
- Drink lots of water and other fluids.
- Don't go to places where there are large crowds, especially if you are old.
Though the coronavirus has led to unexpected challenges, it's not a reason alone to create a will. You want to draft a will with a clear head, not under the duress of fear. Wills and other estate planning tools are meant to be strategic and done with forethought, not as a reaction to a life crisis.
What happens when making a fear-based estate plan?
Here's the scenario: you get seriously sick, maybe it's the coronavirus or maybe it's something else. You had not previously yet taken the time to draft a will or do anything else that may have been in your estate's or your loved ones' best interests. The illness scares you out and so – out of fear – you hire an attorney to draft a will, or worse, create a will from an online form.
You make bad decisions. Understand that fear induces bad decisions. You aren't thinking clearly. You may be susceptible to undue influence by others. You may not be able to identify all your assets and may leave something out. You may not leave property or assets to the right heirs or may not do so in the correct percentage.
Now, what happens?
You get better and recover. The fear was unfounded. You get busy with your recovery and catching up with life that you forget about your poorly-drafted will. This scenario is the exact reason why drafting a will or anything else during a stressful time is a bad thing to do: you forget to review the estate plan later to confirm it is drafted per your wishes and needs. That mistake can cost your heirs many issues such as family in-fighting, unanticipated tax issues, and a costly probate.
What happens when making an empowered-based estate plan?
Empowered-based estate planning is one not based on fear but created by thoughtful decisions based on strategy and family. Simply put: You take the time to gather information about all your assets and financial documents. You also consider your assets and how they should be distributed. In so doing, you help formulate the provisions of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills that will benefit you today and your heirs tomorrow.
Then, when an unexpected challenge happens, you won't make poor decisions that could inadvertently and negatively impact your heirs. The smart decisions would have already been made. So, all you need to do is conquer the unexpected and move on.
The Key Takeaway
The coronavirus is a serious threat to our health, our economy and our personal finances. It's natural that in times like these, we think about safeguarding our loved ones and making sure they have what they need if something happens to us. But when unexpected challenges arise, decisions shouldn't be made rashly. Take a step back, analyze the situation. It is best to avoid making life decisions when rational thought prevail. Good estate planning should not be impulsive and reactive but proactive and strategic.
To be clear, even during the COVID-19 crisis, you can still plan for your estate, but just do so not out of fear but with a clear head and an intention to do it right. To learn more about estate planning, contact an experienced estate planning attorney in Clarksville today.