My 93-year-old mother-in-law fell and broke her hip six weeks ago. Her surgery was successful, and she avoided most complications; now she is undergoing physical therapy in a rehab center in Atlanta. Until the accident my mother-in-law was mostly self-sufficient and protected her privacy, but this accident has forced my wife to get involved in my mother-in-law’s affairs.
We are now familiar with Medicare, supplemental Medicare, rehab time limits, rehab centers, assisted living facilities, skilled versus unskilled nursing homes, Veterans benefits, etc. We have discovered that my mother-in-law has 21 bank accounts at five different banks and doesn’t trust direct deposit for her Social Security check. We located what seems to be an operative will – from 1982.
Her family has had several changes in the past three decades (whose hasn’t?), and the old will doesn’t match what she has described as her current desires for at least the last decade. Fortunately, my mother-in-law has time to fix this: we have an appointment with an estate attorney next Thursday in the rehab center. Yes, I found an attorney who makes house calls.
So what does this mean for you?
Obviously, you should review your estate plan periodically: every five years is a good idea and more frequently if your life situation changes. In business, however, you have many other plans that need periodic review.
When was the last time you tested your off site computer backups? Not just to see if the data is backed up, but have you tried to use the back up data to see if it really works? I bet there are some businesses in the northeast that wish they had tested the water resistance of their backups before hurricane Irene. Really, who in Vermont would think that a hurricane would cause them a problem – and that is exactly the point.
You need to think about the unthinkable.
When did you last review your succession plan? Who could take over for you if you broke your hip and couldn’t go to your business for a month or more? What is your plan if your VP of Operations is hit by a bus? (In my It’s always the president’s fault blog, I described how this led to the firing of a company president.)
What about your financing plans? How stable is your bank? Can you rely on it for continuing financing in these tumultuous times? Will you find out one day that your bank has all the real estate/manufacturing/service business they need and they would love to see you take your business elsewhere? Nothing bad about you – they just want to move in a different direction.
What about your professional advisors? Have you met your lawyer’s partners? Your CPA’s? Your financial advisor’s? Are you comfortable with them? Do you have confidence in them? I have seen several cases in which the unexpected death of a lawyer or CPA caused significant disruptions in a client’s business.
So think about the what ifs and prepare a plan to counter the unexpected. You may not be as fortunate as my mother-in-law.