As this blog post goes “live” on my firm’s website I will be happily sitting in the sunshine, hopefully watching a compelling and competitive tennis match, at the BNP Paribas Open held in Indian Wells, California. As a former college tennis player and an avid tennis fan, I love following and watching professional tennis – including the 2021 U.S. Open which concluded last month. As you may recall, the women’s champion was none other than 18-year-old Emma Raducanu, a qualifier from Great Britain ranked 150 in the world. Needless to say, I was surprised! I had my picks at the start of the tournament, including the always steady world’s number one Australian, Ash Barty. Admittedly, none of my picks included Emma Raducanu. In fact, the odds of her winning were 400-1. Ignoring the odds, Raducanu efficiently disposed of fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 6-3 in the championship match.

Life is, at times, completely unpredictable. Sometimes that’s a good thing, such as the pure joy that Raducanu exhibited after her improbable U.S. Open run. And sometimes, improbable events happen that are not so good – such as bicycle accident or a stroke. It’s important to both fully embrace the happier unexpected moments and, also, to plan ahead for the possibility of more tragic moments.

Planning for the unexpected includes having a will with contingency plans in place. For example, a will should nominate a primary fiduciary to serve as a Personal Representative, a back up if the first choice is unable or unwilling to serve, and perhaps even a third alternative. If a will contains a testamentary trust, similarly, a primary trustee, an alternate trustee, and perhaps even a third choice should be set forth. The same principle applies for parents with minor children who nominate a guardian within a will.

And what about the will’s distribution? Suppose someone requests that their assets be evenly divided between their three children, but the entire family perishes when their hot air balloon plunges from the sky? That is improbable, but it can happen. It is important that a will provides for a back up distribution, just in case, so that the assets will be distributed pursuant the testator’s personal wishes rather than via intestate succession.

Similarly, alternate fiduciaries should be named in a Revocable Living Trust, General Durable Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions and Memorial Instructions. If a person does not have multiple friends or family members who could potentially serve, nominating a professional fiduciary as an alternate might make sense.

Sometimes unexpected events bring joy, such as Raducanu’s surprising and fun victory. But, if an unexpected event instead brings tragedy, do you have your ducks in a row? If not, please let us know. We’d be happy to help.

This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.

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