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Preparing for times of uncertainty

Crises can take many shapes and forms. Whether in our immediate family, local community or the world at large, unexpected events may prompt us to consider worst-case scenarios. Though getting your personal and business affairs in order takes planning ahead, it will also help you face times of uncertainty with greater peace of mind.

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When uncertainty looms, it’s not unusual for us to ask ourselves some of life’s toughest questions: Who would take care of my family if something happened to me? How would I want my business to be run? Who should carry on my legacy?

A good place to start is maintaining an overview of your affairs in a physical folder with all of your details and important documents. Think of it as your ‘emergency folder’ that would serve as a checklist for whoever is tasked with managing your estate. Of the many items you may wish to include, some are as follows:

  • Details of your next of kin, dependents and individuals to be informed should something happen to you
  • Primary contact person within and outside of the family
  • Birth and marriage certificates
  • Marital contract/prenuptial agreement
  • Details of contracts, memberships, subscriptions and any functions held publicly or privately
  • Banking relationships and investment overview
  • Debt and other financial commitments (e.g. mortgage, loans, alimony, leasing agreements)
  • Contact details of your legal, tax and financial advisors
  • Pension and insurance policies
  • Outline of your real estate portfolio
  • Digital assets overview including e-mail, social media and e-commerce accounts
  • For business owners, details and instructions on business continuity

It’s important to update the folder in line with life’s twists and turns, store it in a safe place and inform the person (or people) you trust to take over the reins.

Making your wishes known
In many countries, creating a will and testament is helpful in making your wishes known, and can be included in your emergency folder. Expressing your preferences concerning medical treatment and care in the case of accident or illness is also recommended, as well as guidance on who should have access to your accounts while you recover.

Each jurisdiction has its own laws and regulations pertaining to how an estate is handled when its owner passes away or becomes incapacitated. For example, inheritance differs greatly from country to country, each with its own laws and taxation framework. This is why it’s crucial to understand your estate’s composition and the jurisdictions involved with the help of a trusted advisor.

If circumstances permit, estate planning is best done with ample time and reflection. This will ensure that all legal, regulatory and tax implications of marriage, international family ties, business ownership and personal considerations are taken into account. While an emergency folder is no substitute for fully-fledged estate planning, it’s certainly a good start.