As I write this, COVID-19 has been running rampant throughout the world. The World Health Organization declared a pandemic, which means the disease has touched the majority of the countries around the world. Nobody expected this to happen. Expect the unexpected.
In the past few weeks and months, people all over the world who thought they had plenty of time for their end of life planning and planning for the events needed after their death did not get that opportunity. They did not expect the unexpected.
Within less than 5 months the world as we know it changed. As of 1:41 Pacific Daylight Time on Thursday, March 12, 2020, 127,863 confirmed cases resulting in 4,718 deaths worldwide were reported. On April 24, 2020, slightly more than 2,800,000 worldwide cases have been reported with slightly more than 195,000 deaths. As of August 1, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) is reporting 4,542,579 in the United States with 152,870 resultant deaths. Globally there have been approximately 683,000 deaths. Given the speed with which this virus has spread throughout the world, the unexpected and unimaginable happened.
UPDATE: As of October 13, 2020 the CDC is reporting 7,787,548 total cases and 214,446 deaths in the USA. Globally there have been in excess of 1,000,000 deaths reported.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (the Dow) is the index of the 30 top-performing U.S. companies. The highest closing record of 29,551.42 was set on Feb. 12, 2020. On March 23, 2020, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 18,591.93, down by almost 37%. This unexpected precipitous plunge was not anticipated nor was it expected.
The news channels can’t seem to keep up with all the closures surrounding the impact of COVID-19. Disneyland has shut down. Schools throughout the country have been closed. Sporting events have been canceled. Flight restrictions are in place. All of this has taken place within a matter of a few short months.
Just a few months ago the economy in the United States was humming along with the stock market experiencing one of its longest bull markets in history. Expect the unexpected.
All of this is to say that the magnitude of COVID-19 was completely unexpected. Needless to say, there are many casualties left in its wake and it is still going strong.
Expect the Unexpected
This post is not intended to be a post about COVID-19 but rather, is intended to be a post about how rapidly things can change in our individual lives.
I can only imagine that most of those almost 683,000 individuals mentioned above anticipated they had several more days and possibly years to live. As a result, planning for future actions may have been delayed to what they perceived to be a more opportune time. Unfortunately for them that opportune time never came.
We all know there are two indisputable facts in life, taxes, and death. We have no problem in talking about taxes or the lack thereof, but when it comes to death we tend to clam up. We know events will occur in our lives where we will be dependent on someone else to take care of our affairs. Why not take an active role in how those affairs should be resolved? Expect the unexpected.
Perhaps you are at the point in your life where you can readily engage a financial planner, an estate planner, or any other licensed professional to assist you in preparing for your latter days. If you are in that position you are to be congratulated. However, I suspect there are circumstances and situations you should be thinking about that these professionals may not cover.
- Your last will and testament will not go into effect until you have passed away.
- What happens when you become incapacitated?
- Who will keep your personal affairs in order?
- Who will keep your bills paid?
- Do you have an Advance Directive in place in the event you cannot make medical decisions for yourself?
- These are just a few of the things to think about before you die.
Too Young to Worry?
Maybe you think you are too young to worry about such things. Many people die at a young age. Death may come via a fatal accident of some type or from an unexpected disease such as COVID-19.
- Should you die, do those loved ones you leave behind know how to settle your affairs?
- Do they know what financial obligations need to be settled?
- Do they know what to do with your pets?
- Do they know where your important financial and legal documents are located?
- If you have a safe deposit box at your local bank, do you know that access to that box may be limited until a court allowed by a court of law?
- Does anyone in your circle of trust know how to access and cancel your online accounts?
These questions and more should be addressed before there is an urgent need. That way you can have full say so in all of your end of life planning and in the events that need to take place when you pass away.
I have identified two books I have found useful in starting this thought process in my own life.
I Am Gone – You Are In charge
This is a glossy finish flexible paperback prompted planner that will help guide you through the steps to ensure those you leave behind at your death will be able to abide by your wishes. You will be able to have a functional part in the events that need to transpire when you are gone. You can have that level of assurance that those you have left in charge will do their best to honor your wishes.
When your earthly journey is complete, your family, friends, and close associates will want to be notified. This book provides space for recording that important contact information. Published obituaries help with this but you are the best source of this information. Putting it in this planner helps those responsible for taking care of your affairs perform that function quickly and with compassion.
You may have chosen your best friend but will they know the contact information for your landlord or mortgage company? Will they have knowledge of any safe deposit accounts? In addition to including space for that information, the prompted planner provides space for recording information related to any other organizations with whom you may have relationships.
While this book does collect important personal information, it does not include information related to your end of life planning such as what kind of medical treatment you may desire or how you wish to live out your final days on earth.
I believe you will find either one of these books useful, but keep in mind they are not a substitute for a Last Will and Testament.
I’m Dead. Now What?
This is a hardback planner that allows you to record your personal information, your medical information, and key contact information for use should you become incapacitated. Also, it contains sections where you can leave
information and instructions for those left behind that will need to settle your final affairs.
This book contains space to include important information related to any commercial business ventures with which you may be involved.
You may find that as a result of completing the information in either book you will have additional questions that will need to be answered. By completing this now, you will have time for further research.
Since both books were written before the advent of the Coronavirus, neither book specifically prompts for a response related to personal preferences in the event larger group funerals or memorial services are not allowed by governmental authorities. There is, however, space to record your personal thoughts and to express your personal desires.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is a result of the personal research and opinion of the author and should not be construed as professional advice. Much of the numerical information provided is from The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.