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Lurking Sharks and Life Changes

By: Attorney Katherine S. Breckenridge, Esq.

Published September 1, 2013

Estate Planning : Triathlon

A resident shark! Yes, I found out one week before my husband was scheduled to compete in a worldwide known triathlon, that a shark made its home in the very bay in which my husband was to swim the 2.4 mile-prong of the competition.

A shark, plus a two-mile swim, plus my husband, just did not seem like an ideal equation. All I could think of is being twelve hours away from Virginia, as the plane flies, and this legendary shark acquiring an affinity for my husband.

That fear motivated me to do the best thing I could do as a wife, and as an estate planning attorney. With three days until departure, I had my husband sign a new power of attorney and a new advance medical directive. I then made copies of the originals and placed a set in my carry-on bag. I was prepared; if that shark was going to say “hello,” or if I needed to sign any documents on behalf of my husband, or authorize medical care, I had the necessary paperwork. I had protected my husband’s interests as best as I could.

There were no shark encounters, I did not need to produce the documents, and my husband had a successful race. However, life can bring unexpected challenges, and I like to be as prepared as possible. I like my clients to be as prepared as possible.

In this case, the power of attorney and advance medical directives would have permitted me to be my husband’s agent, to make decisions on his behalf.

Comprehensive estate planning includes Wills and frequently Trusts, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directives.

Whereas a Will addresses the distribution of an individual’s estate upon death, a Power of Attorney and Advance Medical Directive are designed to address the care of the individual while he or she is still living.

A comprehensive estate plan includes a power of attorney, which provides a client with the means to plan for the possibility of his or her incapacity, and helps to avoid the necessity of appointing a guardian.

An Advance Medical Directive makes it possible for an individual to specify his or her desires for health care in the event the individual has a terminal illness. It is also a means to appoint an agent to make sure his or her wishes are respected.

A Trust is often sought after by clients as a means to avoid probate so that upon their death information about their estate remains private. A Trust can also be used as a means to plan for one’s in capacity, ensuring that monies and investments are distributed and utilized as directed by the Grantor, while the Grantor is still alive, as well as upon death.

So, whether or not there is a legendary shark within your swimming waters, there may be unforeseen life changes that come your way. Plan ahead; it will help protect your interests, as well as make life transitions easier for your loved ones.