With the threat of pandemic looming over us, we hope that you are staying home and staying healthy. The urgency of this event has reminded us of how things can quickly spiral out of control during an emergency situation and it is important to take a moment to remember the importance of proper estate planning, before it is needed.
Estate planning isn’t all about your Will. You might think that estate planning primarily concerns what happens to your property and money after you die. Yes, those are important considerations, but estate planning also encompasses decisions that will be made while you are still alive.
In the event that you are incapacitated due to severe illness or an accident, someone needs to make medical, financial, and (potentially) end-of-life decisions in your stead. By appointing a medical and financial power of attorney, you can ensure that your wishes are followed when you are unable to communicate them.
The right time for estate planning is before an accident or serious illness occurs. In the event that you have lost the ability, either physically or mentally, to respond to the options before you, someone else must step in to make those decisions for you. Unless you have previously established medical and financial power of attorney, no one has the authority to do so.
Without an estate plan in place, a relative or other loved one will likely need to file for conservatorship. This process requires court approval during a time when critical decisions are pressing and can be difficult for all involved.
During an emergency, courts may be closed. In the event of major pandemic or natural disaster, courts might be bogged down with cases or even closed.
Currently, Riverside County has declared a local health emergency, and courts are continuing all non-essential cases until after May 18th. More operations are being moved online, and complete closure is an imminent possibility if this crisis takes a turn for the worse.
With California courts shutting down, obtaining an emergency conservatorship could become difficult to obtain. Therefore, we suggest that you review your estate planning needs, update any pertinent documents, and draw up plans for medical or financial power of attorney now.