With hurricane season upon us, many Florida residents are taking the common preparation steps that they take every year. Our team legal team at Hill & Kinsella hopes that your measures are underway. If you haven’t started preparing for hurricane season, then please see our list below for general planning tips:
- Stock up on water and non-perishables for yourself, family, and any pets
- If you have a generator, make sure it works and has gas
- Fill up your vehicles with gas
- Get sandbags
- Check your flashlights, batteries, and any battery-operated radios
- Have a manual can opener on hand for canned goods
- Get a portable cell phone charger
- Fill prescription medicines and non-prescription first aid kits
- Locate and gather important documents (like your estate planning and insurance documents) and place them in a container for travel
- Have an evacuation route and plan in place
The Similarities Between Preparing for a Hurricane & Estate Planning
Preparing for a hurricane is a lot like making an estate plan. First, a well-rounded estate plan includes a Health Care Surrogate Designation and a Living Will. These “advance directives” allow you to make your wishes known while you are living, but in situations where you cannot speak for yourself. They empower you to decide who you would want to make your medical decisions and handle your financial affairs if you are unable to.
When you include these tools in your estate plan, you are essentially saying, “I hope the day never comes when I need this plan in place, but if it does, I am ready.” You can make your wishes known and have a plan in place before hardship or disaster strikes so your loved ones are in the best position to help you through the storm.
For hurricane preparedness, when your plan includes a special needs child or a disabled loved one, there may be additional needs to consider, such as having an extra generator to run necessary medical equipment. The same can be said for your estate plan. Many people don’t realize that estate plans should not be one-size-fits-all, especially in the case of a special needs or a disabled family member.
For example, leaving money outright to a loved one who is on government benefits, such as Medicaid, might be more of a curse than a blessing. This can cause them to lose their benefits. Instead, you can create a plan ahead of time to provide for your loved one in a way that will allow him or her to maintain their benefits and have a better quality of life.
Pets are another consideration. Just like you plan for your pets in a hurricane, it is also important to discuss with your elder law attorney what you would want to happen to your pets if you predecease them or if you become incapacitated and can no longer provide adequate care. This may include designating a caregiver and, in some cases, includes designating funds for your pet’s care in a “pet trust.”
Sometimes a storm comes out of nowhere and all we can do is find a safe shelter. Like being in the direct path of a hurricane or tornado, we often see the same need for “crisis planning” in elder law. This type of crisis may come in the form of a devastating medical diagnosis or an unexpected hospitalization. The crisis may be when a loved one develops the need for long-term care but paying for that care seems unrealistic, painful, or unanticipated.
In many cases, it becomes evident that an elder’s life savings will quickly be depleted to pay for their care. Often times, this would never have been their plan and might leave a healthier spouse in an unfortunate financial position. At Hill & Kinsella we understand the ins-and-outs of asset protection and Medicaid planning. We are here to help you and your family find the right solution that fits your unique needs when life throws a crisis curveball.
Our Firm Is Here to Serve You
Like storm preparation, we encourage you to have your “general” estate plan in place and regularly updated as a precautionary measure, and to keep in mind that your elder law attorney can assist with protecting assets in advance and crisis planning down the road if the need arises.
At the end of hurricane season, you may be fortunate to have not needed to rely on those non-perishables, the emergency water jugs, or the extra batteries. However, you likely won’t throw them away and over time you’ll end up putting them to use. Like with hurricane preparation, some estate planning “prepping measures” may not be needed during life, but others, like your Last Will and Testament, will end up being used eventually.
We hope that you are taking proactive measures for both your hurricane preparation and your estate planning to put yourself and your family in the best position possible to champion any coming storms. Remember, if you do decide to evacuate for a hurricane, please take your original estate planning documents with you! Leaving them in your home could result in them being destroyed.If you would like to request a consultation with a lawyer at Hill & Kinsella to review your estate plan, then please give us a call today at (727) 240-2350 to speak to a friendly member of our legal team.