My office is full of backups. My headset used for making VoIP telephone calls could fizzle out, so I keep a backup headset just in case. Suppose I spill coffee on the keyboard of my desktop computer? (And, admittedly, this has happened.) My backup keyboard is in the office closet and ready to plug in, just in case, so I won’t miss a beat when it comes to work. I would never be caught dead without a backup printer cartridge. And, the data for my firm? Our firm’s IT vendor backs up our data in three or four different ways to ensure that, if an emergency occurs, we will be able to recover.
Most of you likely have backups for the key things in life – the things that create pure chaos if they are lost or broken. For example, what about that extra set of house keys that you hide under the rock in your backyard in case you accidentally lock yourself out of the house? But what about a backup for your fiduciaries named in your estate planning documents? By “fiduciaries,” I’m referring to your nominated Personal Representatives in your Will, your Attorney-in-Facts named in your General Durable Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions, and your Trustees named in either your Revocable Living Trust or your Testamentary Trust contained in your Will. When picking who will be in charge, often it’s easy to name the first choice. It could be your spouse, partner, the sibling you are closest to, or your best friend. But, keep in mind that the reason your first choice is often the easiest choice is because it’s a person you like and spend time with. When you spend time with someone, accidents can occur that result in multiple deaths. That’s why it’s important to have at least one, if not more, backups in mind for each fiduciary role in your estate planning documents. Estate planning is all about planning for the unexpected. And, just like the chaos that ensues when your keyboard doesn’t work after the coffee spill, or you are outside of the house frantically making phone calls once you realize that you are accidentally locked out, that chaos happens on a considerably magnified level when there’s no backup fiduciary named in an estate planning document so no one can easily take charge of a needed task.
And the same principle applies in relation to your beneficiaries. For example, suppose Tom names his wife Suzy as his primary beneficiary in his Will, and his children Jamie and Leo as secondary beneficiaries? But sadly, the family’s annual rock climbing vacation goes south in a major way, and all the family members perish. If Tom failed to name any contingent beneficiaries in his Will, then his estate will be distributed by intestate succession which may not be a desirable result.
So be sure to backup your life and backup your estate plan! If you need assistance, we’d be happy to help.