The pandemic has set many plans in motion for estate planning. Most healthy people have not felt a sense of urgency until the pandemic. With the United States taking claim to the largest numbers of cases of coronavirus across the globe, it is scary and especially frightening for those over 80. If a senior citizen is admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, it’s usually too late to do anything about what they are leaving behind. They are left without the ability to preserve their legacy through a last will and testament, naming a health care power of attorney, or having a conversation about their end-of-life wishes.
How can we keep our loved ones safe and prepared for the absolute worst? Below is a quick rundown of items to check off your list.
- Be careful and follow the recommended health guidelines. This includes wearing a mask, hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, and cleaning surfaces. For seniors, it is particularly important. If you have a choice, online shopping or going to the grocery store during senior hours are best.
- Watch out for scammers. Scammers target the elderly often and typically use fear of the coronavirus to provoke them towards action. One recent scam is a phone call from an individual claiming to be a contact tracer, saying they are tracking people who have been exposed to COVID-19. They ask for Social Security numbers, birthdays and zip codes. These questions would never be asked by a legitimate contact tracer.
- Make a plan for your digital assets. Many seniors are active on social media. They use email and a variety of apps to stay in touch with relatives and manage finances. Make a list of all of your accounts online and offline, and the respective passwords. This will enable a trusted family member or friend to help should you become incapacitated or in the case of death. Digital assets are much more complex than tangible assets, because there isn’t a paper trail.
- Get your legal affairs in order now. Depending on where you reside, you may be able to have documents witnessed and notarized remotely. Your estate planning attorney will know the current rules and be able to prepare the necessary documents.
- Create a Power of Attorney. The person you name as POA will have authority to take care of your finances, pay bills and keep your financial life in order should you become ill.
- Have a Health Care Power of Attorney created. If you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself, this allows the person you name to get information regarding your condition and make medical decisions on your behalf. Use an estate planning attorney to create these documents. They are powerful documents and an estate planning attorney’s advice in helping select the right person can prevent a world of trouble in the future. The attorney can help you make the best choice regarding who may be best equipped to make decisions for you and carry out your wishes.
- Have a Will, or Last Will and Testament, or a Revocable Trust created by an estate planning attorney. A professionally prepared last will sets out your wishes for distribution of your assets and is legally enforceable.
- Update your beneficiaries. Distributions from accounts including IRAs, pensions and life insurance policies are not governed by your last will, but by the beneficiaries you name. As your life changes, these need to be updated. You may want to make sure you haven’t left an ex-spouse or old girlfriend as a receiving your entire life insurance policy.
Once you have your estate plan done, you’ll realize it was easy to do, and well worth the peace of mind during the pandemic knowing that you and your loved ones are protected. If you’d like to get started, our team at Morneau Law is here to help. Reach out to us at (603) 943-5647 today.