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Creating Estate Plan in an Emergency

June 8, 2022

Preparing a comprehensive estate plan takes time, sometimes weeks or even months. However, as we all know, life sometimes throws us a curve ball and emergencies happen. Perhaps an emergency caused by a physical condition, such as a newly discovered, imminent, and terminal condition, or a highly risky surgery must be undergone. It can also be triggered by external factors, such as unexpected travel plans to an unstable region, a likely militarized conflict, or an environmental disaster. Although it may be tempting to skip certain procedures suggested by your attorney, it is wise to make every effort to follow these protocols in order to ensure that the prepared estate plan is in the proper legal format and carries out the testator’s wishes.

What to Expect?

In order to decide which documents should be prepared under the circumstances, your attorney will usually evaluate the level of urgency based on the following three criteria:

  • Legal capacity of the testator (mental and physical) – whether the testator is able to make decisions and physically able to sign the necessary documents to convey their assets. If the testator’s mental capacity may be viewed as compromised, witnesses may be required to confirm the testator's legal capacity to execute documents;

  • The nature of the emergency – whether information can be easily obtained and documents exchanged, and signed; and

  • The volume of assets involved – whether the size of the estate will require dealings with several cities, counties, states, or possibly even countries.

Based on these and possibly some other pertinent factors, your attorney will propose the documents to be drafted for your estate plans. To learn what to expect when you hire an attorney under non-emergency conditions, click here.

What Documents Will Likely Be Prepared?

  • A will or other testamentary document disposing of one’s assets. If the pressing circumstances are primarily related to immediate medical and financial decisions, the attorney may propose a basic will, tracking typical inheritance laws, that names the client's desired estate representative (generally referred to as an executor or personal representative);

  • Guardianship designations for minor children. This document can be a standalone or included in the will. If time is highly limited, guardianship designations will likely be a part of wills. Read tips on how to choose guardians for your minor children here.

  • Advance Health Directive. This is a document where the testator can nominate their health care decision-makers and express preferences for health care decisions.

  • Financial power of attorney. This document authorizes an agent to act in relation to the financial assets of the testator. Find out what a power of attorney is and how to create one here.

In order to prepare the essential documents listed above, be ready to provide information that will help your attorney understand your asset profile and family structure. Focus on the information that is easily available to you under the circumstances and what is most important to you. However, err on the side of providing more information, not less. Your attorney will help you eliminate non-essentials, but it will be nearly impossible to include information that was never presented.

My Office Can Help You Plan Ahead

Dealing with emergencies can be very stressful and you need an experienced attorney who is ready to help you in the most efficient and effective way. Click here to Schedule a FREE Virtual Estate Planning Session. We will guide you through the entire process and help you understand what needs to be done to ensure your loved ones are taken care of.


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