The Law Offices of Kelly J. McDonald, PLLC - Probate, Elder Law, & Special Needs

Emergency instructions can fill an estate planning gap

Putting a comprehensive estate plan into place can provide Arizona residents with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their affairs have been attended to and their heirs will be taken care of, but documents like trusts, wills and powers of attorney are of little use in the hours and days following a tragedy. Valuable time can be lost while these documents are located, and it could be several weeks before matters such as the guardianship of young children go before the courts.

One way to address this estate planning gap is to draft a list of instructions that are designed to provide guidance to loved ones or emergency response personnel. Such instructions could ensure that the children of parents killed in a car accident or other tragedy are placed with a relative rather than being handed over to a state agency, but they are only useful when they are discovered quickly. Placing emergency instructions in a prominent location and letting individuals such as babysitters or trusted neighbors know about them increases the chances of this happening.

These documents should be drafted carefully when young children are involved because police officers in these situations follow strict regulations. Placing minors with neighbors or the parents of friends will usually violate these regulations, but a properly drafted document that clearly reflects the wishes of the parents could help to spare children in an already difficult situation unnecessary emotional trauma.

Attorneys with experience in this area may advise those who wish to take no chances to draft health care and financial powers of attorney in addition to lists of emergency instructions. These legal documents ensure that an individual's financial affairs and important medical decisions are put into the hands of trusted people.

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