Over the weekend “Frankenstorm,” also known as Hurricane Sandy after it merged with a Nor’easter ravaged the east coast and much of the Midwest with high winds, a lot of rain, snow, and sleet. Because so many San Diego residents are transplants, chances are good that you or someone you know is in the densely populated areas of the east coast suffering damage from this storm. I hope that your family, friends, and loved ones have made it through the storm with their lives and property intact.
However, as more and more information is released about the devastation caused by the storm, it is clear that some people were not so lucky. Similarly, San Diego is not immune to natural disasters. Some parts of the county suffer deadly blizzards, earthquakes, and other environmental hazards. One lesson to learn from such incidents is that you can never be too prepared and it is never too early to begin planning.
Often, young, unmarried individuals and young couples neglect estate planning until the occurrence of some future event such as, marriage, buying a home, or having children. As they get older, they may continue to put it off “until they have time” or until they have extra money. The assumption is that there is always tomorrow, but as disasters can remind us, the assumption is not always accurate. Even outside the world of natural disasters, issues such as sudden illness and car accidents can bring a lack of preparedness to the forefront.
Consider, for example, the Terri Schiavo case. Although the case ended seven years ago in Florida, it remains an important cautionary tale to estate planners and clients alike. In her case, she was only 27 when she collapsed of cardiac arrest. She was not allowed to die via removal of artificial nutrition and hydration until 15 years after the incident and seven years of litigation. Perhaps more importantly, Terri Schiavo was robbed of privacy and dignity in death as her family’s struggles became a nationwide controversy about making end of life decisions without advance planning. Everything from her diagnoses to images of her became open to public scrutiny.
In short, once you receive warning of a natural disaster or suffer an accident, it is all too often too late to ensure that you, your loved ones, and your property will be safely taken care of. By taking a serious look at your financial and personal situation with your attorney, no matter in what stage your life is, can help determine what type of protection you need to maintain your personal property. In some cases, it may be advisable to create a simple will or a trust. In other cases, it may be important to ensure your eligibility for long-term care in case it becomes necessary through the use of a QMap trust. Similarly, if you are a veteran, you may prefer a QVap trust. Additionally, effective use of other financial planning tools and insurance may be in order to make sure that your estate is sufficiently protected no matter what happens or when it happens!