Everything has changed since the coronavirus has become part of our lives, and it has taught us some important lessons. One of them is the stark realization that life-threatening circumstances can present themselves when you least expect it.
Caring.com is a popular website that keeps a finger on the pulse of the estate planning preparedness of American adults. They have released their survey results for 2020 alongside the 2019 data in an effort to draw comparisons.
The results are not very encouraging. Across all age groups, just 32 percent of people have estate plans in place. This is down from the 40 percent that we saw in 2019, and in 2017, the figure was 42 percent.
Preparedness was always inadequate, but it is getting worse by the year. This is happening while the population is aging, so the trend is rather perplexing. Less than 50 percent of people that were 55 years of age and older have estate plans, and the number was just 27 percent for Americans between the ages of 35 and 54.
We shared these statistics to provide the background that we need to make the connection to the coronavirus. It is not wise to wait until you are 75 years old to put an estate plan in place, because sadly, you may never celebrate that birthday.
Unexpected circumstances like this horrendous virus can suddenly materialize, and people have always succumbed prematurely due to catastrophic illnesses and accidents.
The Kobe Bryant helicopter crash that took the lives of young adults and teenagers is a stark reminder. You can be in fantastic condition and very young, and a disaster can strike at any time.
If you are the parent of a dependent child, estate planning is absolutely essential. Even if you have no children, if there is anyone depending on you, this is a subject that you should discuss with your partner.
In addition to the financial part of the equation, there is another important consideration, and COVID-19 shines a spotlight on it.
A very significant percentage of people become unable to communicate when they are seriously ill in one way or another. Under these circumstances, some extremely consequential health care decision-making necessary may become necessary.
For example, would you want to be kept alive through the use of artificial life-sustaining, measures regardless of the prognosis? You can answer this question through the execution of an advance directive for health care called a living will or health care proxy.
To account for decisions that are not directly related to life-support, you can add a durable power of attorney for health care. This is a document that is used to empower someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
Under provisions contained within the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), doctors cannot share medical information with anyone other than the patient. However, you can execute a HIPAA release authorization when you create the incapacity component.
Register for a Live Webinar
We have traditionally gotten out into the community offering free estate planning and elder law seminars. Because of the current circumstances, we have transitioned to webinars. They are just as informative, and there are just as free.
Set Up a Remote Consultation!
If you are ready to put an estate plan in place, we are still here to help. We are offering consultations over the phone and through video chat, so you can take this important step in a totally safe manner.
To schedule an appointment in Vermont, call us at 802-879-7133. The number in Albany is 518-389-6020, and there is a contact form on this website you can use to send us a message.