As grieving families wait for news about the fate of their loved ones aboard flight 370 out of Malaysia, many are also receiving the frustrating news that their loved one’s “missing person” status may have created an estate planning nightmare that the family was not prepared to handle.

While laws vary from country to country, and state to state, generally speaking, when a body is not found after an accident, a death certificate cannot be issued…even in a plane crash situation where the passengers are “assumed dead”.

To manage the “missing person’s” affairs, then, loved ones will need to use the court system and go through conservatorship and guardianship proceedings to gain this right.

Here in the United States, these proceedings are extremely expensive and time consuming. Not to mention, life insurance policies typically will not be paid out for many years (depending on state law), at which time a death certificate could be entered on court order.

For those who left behind families and children to be cared for, this aspect can be especially frustrating and troublesome.  Life insurance proceeds are often used to keep household bills floating and provide some semblance of financial security for the future.

However, this scenario is not limited to a plane crash and is something that every family must consider when putting their estate plans in order. A missing person’s case (or just simply incapacity!) could happen to anyone, and people must take the time to ensure their family is protected should a similar situation occur.

For this reason, we almost always recommend families create a living trust vs. just a will, as a will does not take effect until a person is legally deceased.   A trust, on the other hand, allows family members to manage assets and make decisions —even if the person is still living–to ensure life is as easy as possible for surviving loved ones.

Here at Morgan Law Group, we also include specific language in our trusts that allow families to act within 30 days on their loved one’s behalf in the rare event of a disappearance or “missing person’s” case. Most trusts do not include this language, so it is important to speak with your attorney to ensure your trust is amended properly if you already have one.

However, if you do not have a living trust and want the peace of mind knowing that your family would be protected, no matter what happens, we encourage you to give our office a call and schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session with an MLG attorney. These sessions are normally $750, but we’ve made space for the 10 readers to come in this month at no charge. Simply call (949) 260-1400 to reserve your space.