The novel “coronavirus” (also called “SARS-CoV-2”) causes the disease “COVID-19.” It first appeared in late 2019 and was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on December 31, 2019. Here’s a link to the WHO’s site for the latest global information. COVID-19 has impacted the lives of millions of people and countless events around the world.
The coronavirus has infected over four million people around the world, including over a million in the United States. It has killed over 80,000 people in the United States and disrupted countless lives as the unemployment rate in the United States has soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
People can shelter-in-place to reduce their chances of catching the coronavirus. Coronavirus is far from the only risk out there. People still have heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and other diseases. In fact, life is a terminal illness. We are all mortal. So, it’s best to prepare for the inevitable.
Unfortunately, things can happen unexpectedly. Here’s a story based on many true cases:
Mary and Jake had been together for decades and had several children together, Amy, Betty, and Charlie.
The problems started when both Mary and Jake became incapacitated. Their children couldn’t agree on what to do for their care. All three children loved their parents, but they had differing views on what should be done. Since Jake and Mary hadn’t selected someone to act as their agent to make decisions for them, the children were left to squabble amongst themselves.
As their conditions deteriorated, the problems continued. Amy lived in the house owned by Mary and Jake and refused to move out. Betty had been on a checking account with Mary and Jake and continued writing checks on their account, including checks for her benefit. Mary and Jake owned a car, which Charlie would drive, including home from the bar.
Amy, Betty, and Charlie knew what the other two were doing and didn’t approve. They stopped speaking with each other.
Mary and Jake died within days of each other. They had not done planning, including for the funeral. Amy, Betty, and Charlie had a very difficult time coping with Mary and Jake’s deaths and the ensuing funerals. The three of them were not there for each other. The surviving children had their relationships disrupted. Mary and Jake’s affairs wound up in probate court to resolve who got the assets. But the relationships among the siblings took years to heal.
It takes little time to plan, but it can save years of family fighting.
Planning ahead has many benefits, including possibly saving money in probate fees or taxes, but perhaps the most important benefit is the family harmony it can promote.
Now, perhaps more than ever, it is important to do your planning.
This pandemic is difficult, but we can get through this…together!
Stephen C. Hartnett, J.D., LL.M.
Director of Education
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300
San Diego, California 92123
Phone: (858) 453-2128