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Recently a friend and client was diagnosed with brain cancer. It started with a headache, a trip to a “doc-in-a-box,” a prescription for migraines, back to the “doc,” sent to the ER, a CAT scan and immediate transfer to the hospital. The CAT scan found a 2-inch mass behind his right eye – malignant. This all happened in one week. A young man, 41 years old, with a wife, 2 children and a successful business. Life, for him, and everyone around him, just changed! No one likes to think about a catastrophe striking. However, whether a catastrophe originates in your work or personal life, planning ahead can mitigate its effects. While I don’t suggest worrying about events beyond your control, getting into a position to handle life’s unexpected events – such as an illness, accidents and natural disasters – doesn’t need to be complicated. Taking the time to answer a few questions can make the difference between failure and success for your business and financial security for your family. Don’t put it off any longer. Two things that you need to have in place to survive an unexpected catastrophe are: instructions and money. Ask yourself four questions to get a sense of own preparedness.

1. What does your family require?

There are need-to-know details in your life that you are possibly taking for granted. Should you be incapacitated or pass, your family and friends need a way to access certain information. Where do you keep your money and financial records? What are the passwords for your accounts? Who is authorized to access them? It is important to have these questions answered in wills, trusts, insurance policies and letters of instruction. You need to provide your family with specific direction: “Here’s what I want to happen, and this is how we’re going to pay for it.” Imagine you aren’t around to explain the plan. How will it be communicated to them?

2. What does your business require?

What if something happens to you that limits your ability to manage the business? Who has power of attorney? Who can make payroll? Are there buy/sell agreements that need to be put in place? These questions are particularly pertinent for small business owners, who tend to control many aspects of their business. Instructions and funding are, again, a top priority. In the grander scheme of things, committing to succession and strategic planning, plus sharing leadership with key executives, can help make sure nothing gets derailed.

3. Who is advising you?

There’s more to this than you can fit on a list! Planning for the unexpected is complex, but a number of advisors can help you get a solid plan into place – an attorney, CPA, financial planner – whose job it is to make sure that you, your family, your employees, and your business are protected.

4. Is your plan up to date?

Planning tends to take a back seat to pressing concerns – and often evokes scenarios we just don’t want to think about it. If you do have a checklist or plan in place, put a date in the calendar and review it annually. Consider changes in your life or business and update accordingly. Nothing remains the same, and your plan shouldn’t be the exception. One of my speakers said, “An event is just an event. It’s how we react to it that matters.” When you take the steps to get ready, you’re not just reacting – you’re being proactive. You are protecting your family and your business, and ensuring that no matter where an event starts or how it impacts life and work, you are ready.