Updated: Nov 18
With the recent surge in coronavirus cases and an increasing number of states announcing restrictions, you might be experiencing that eerie feeling of deja vu. Yet, these are no longer "uncertain" times because we've been here before. We've witnessed or experienced Shelter-in-Place orders and business lock-downs. We've known friends or family members who self-isolated or were placed in medical quarantine. None of this is new anymore and therefore you have the benefit of creating your Continuity Plan with certainty.
(1) In case you are hospitalized, who else is authorized to make your medical decisions? Who else is allowed access to your medical records (especially your insurance policies and billing information)? Make sure that you have a HIPAA authorization designating not only your spouse but also any parent, sibling, or adult family member that should be given access to your diagnosis, lab reports, and billing records. By law, doctors and nurses are restricted from sharing patient information with family members due to privacy rights. This is all the more reason to ensure that someone else can provide consent for medical procedures and treatment in case you become unconscious.
(2) Who else can access your essential financial accounts to handle day-to-day expenses? Many of us have household operating accounts, retirement savings, and investment accounts. You should speak with your financial advisor but it's unlikely that you are executing daily trades on your retirement accounts. Some of your accounts probably have online banking features that allow funds to be transferred remotely (often with transfer limits). However, you should review your personal finances and think about the following:
What accounts require in-person banking? Have you provided the proper authorization (either as a signatory or joint account holder) for someone else to access these accounts if you can't? You may prefer not to share access to long-term investments that are not necessary for daily household expenses but what emergency accounts were set-up with short-term liquidity in mind?
For your accounts with online banking, do you have details about your log-in, password, security questions, and two-step verification method (e.g. mobile phone number) stored securely? Is the secured medium easy enough to access by a trusted family member in case you can't access your computer, smartphone, or paper notepad?
In the past, you were told to prepare for 3 months of emergency funding in case of unemployment or disability. Has your family depleted your emergency funding or were you able to replenish your rainy day fund? Who is authorized to apply for government benefits or private loans?
Lastly, if you're going through the trouble of reviewing your financial accounts, have you also designated your Pay-On-Death beneficiary on these accounts? Dallas, Tarrant, and Denton County are scheduling probate hearings in February 2021 and that's assuming that you filed back in October 2020!
(3) And if you are a small business owner, who else can access your essential business accounts to handle day-to-day expenses? Given your numerous business ventures, have you reviewed your partnership agreements, operating agreements, or by-laws to ensure that alternate managers (or agents) are in place to continue business operations? Think of your business operating accounts. Think of authorized agents to execute contract agreements. Think of your IT administrative accounts (e.g. company email, social media accounts, website).