COLONEL MUSTARD, IN THE CONSERVATORY, WITH A ROPE
- January 15, 2015
- Blog, News & Events
If the title of this article appears familiar to you, you surely recognize the very popular murder/mystery board game, Clue. In this context, it is rather fun and exciting to solve a mystery; however, your fiduciaries may not feel quite the same if they are forced to solve a puzzle upon your death or incapacitation. Put another way: do not give your fiduciaries more work than necessary.
While it is extremely important (and necessary) to get your affairs in order from a legal standpoint, it is just as important to get your affairs in order from a logistical standpoint. Take, for example, a highly organized man – let’s call him Mr. X. Mr. X has been diligent in making sure he has a well-oiled estate plan. He has his living trust, his pour-over will, his healthcare directive, and his financial power of attorney all completed well before he intends to leave this earth. Mr. X has ensured his trust has been funded with all of his assets so that nothing goes through probate. Mr. X appears to be the ideal client. However, Mr. X lives alone and is just as private as he is organized. He has locked his trust away in his safe, the combination to which is only located in his head. Mr. X has not told any of his fiduciaries that they are in fact fiduciaries! More specifically, for the purposes of this example, he has not told his friend (Mrs. Z) that he has named her as his agent on his healthcare directive and power of attorney should anything happen to him. Mr. X is also estranged from most of his immediate family and would not want them contacted if anything happened to him.
You, the focused reader, see the huge problem that is about to come to light. Mr. X becomes involved in a car accident and is hospitalized. The hospital staff cannot get any information from Mr. X because he is in a coma. They are unsure how long he has to live. Meanwhile, Mrs. Z finds out what has happened and rushes to the hospital. No one will speak to her about Mr. X’s condition. You see, not only is the hospital unaware that Mr. X has a healthcare directive – Mrs. Z is also unaware that he has a directive and that she is named as his agent! Mass confusion and frustration ensues for all parties involved.
Now imagine a much different situation if Mr. X had told Mrs. Z that he had named her as his agent in case of an emergency, that the code to unlock the safe was located in a specific place, the name of his lawyer who has all his documents on file, or filed his healthcare directive with his primary care physician. Mrs. Z then rushes to the hospital, produces proper identification and documentation, and can then consult with the doctors regarding Mr. X’s condition.
People plan their estates well in advance because they are not aware when or how something bad might happen to them. It defeats the purpose of a well-organized plan if you do not consider the logistical “what happens next” scenario that will occur if and when something bad actually does happen.
Implement your plan in advance by talking to your key fiduciaries. Make sure they know what is expected of them. Make sure they know where to find important documents – or at the very least, know who they can contact through which avenues in order to find them. So you have an estate plan now – excellent! Now take the next steps in the planning process and ensure a seamless transition for those important people in your life.