COVID worries older Americans

Elder Financial Abuse on the Rise during Pandemic

The same isolation that is keeping seniors safe during the pandemic is also making them easier targets for scammers, reports WKYC in a news report “Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation during the pandemic.” While this report concerns a family in Ohio, seniors and families across the country are facing the same challenges.

Two brothers enjoyed spending their time together throughout their lives. However, for the last three years, one of them, Michael Pekar, has been trying to undo a neighbor’s theft of his brother Ronnie’s estate. A few months before Ronnie died from cancer, a neighbor got involved with his finances, gained Power of Attorney and began stealing Ronnie’s life savings.

The money, more than a million dollars, had been saved for the sons by their mother. Pekar went to see an attorney, who helped uncover a sum of about $1.6 million that had been transferred from Ronnie into other accounts. A civil complaint was filed against the woman and $700,000 was eventually recovered, but nearly $1 million will never be recovered.

How can you prevent this from happening to your loved ones, especially those who are isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic?

An elderly person who is isolated is vulnerable. Long stretches of time without family contact make them eager for human connection. If someone new suddenly inserts themselves into your loved one’s life, consider it a red flag. Are new people taking over tasks of bill paying, or driving them to a bank, lawyer, or financial professional’s office? It might start out as a genuine offer of help but may not end that way, elder lawyers say.

The possible financial abuser does not have to be a stranger. In most cases, family members, like nieces, nephews or other relatives, prey on the isolated elderly person. The red flag is a sudden interest that was never there before.

Changes to legal or financial documents are a warning sign, especially if those documents have gone missing. Unexpected trips to attorneys you don’t know or switching financial advisors without discussing changes with children are another sign that something is happening. So are changes to email addresses and phone numbers. If your elderly aunt who calls every Thursday at 3 pm stops calling, or you can’t reach her, someone may be controlling her communications.

According to the CDC, about one in ten adults over age 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited.

Be sure to check in more frequently on elderly family members during the pandemic because increased isolation can lead them to rely on others, making them vulnerable to abuse.

Reference: WKYC (Nov. 19, 2020) “Northeast Ohio family warns of elder financial exploitation during the pandemic.”

 

The New Orleans woman who fought the longest court battle in US history

In an 1850 pamphlet summarizing the ongoing estate litigation of a New Orleans woman, Myra Clark Gaines, journalist Alexander Walker wrote, “The wildest romance ever written, could not contain a greater variety of strange incidents, more affecting details, more strongly marked characters, a more constant succession of stirring events, and stronger exhibitions of folly, intrigue, deception and crime.” If we ever needed a reminder that it is best to keep your estate out of probate and the courts, a story from NOLA’s The New Orleans Collection in 2020 was it.

Walker’s report was published less than a third of the way through the marathon case, a 57-year estate battle involving hidden paternity, a destroyed will, and a multimillion-dollar fortune. The case touched all levels of the judicial system and appeared before the United States Supreme Court a total of 17 times. It remains the longest continuous litigation in the history of the country. The legal fight was covered extensively over the decades, granting Gaines a public platform that she used to advocate for women’s rights and suffrage.

The Gaines case is a real-life American equivalent of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a fictional court case in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House (1852–53), which progressed at a wounded snail’s pace in the English Court of Chancery. The case is a central plot device in the novel and has become a byword for seemingly interminable legal proceedings.

Make it a New Year’s resolution to protect your family from “interminable legal proceedings” by updating your estate plan, and talk with an estate planning attorney about ways you can do just that, especially with a revocable living trust.

Happy 2020. And to read about the unfortunate, if ultimately successful Mrs. Gaines, check out the NOLA historical tale here:

https://www.hnoc.org/publications/first-draft/new-orleans-woman-who-fought-longest-court-battle-us-history?button&utm_source=wordfly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=FirstDraft2020EOYRound-Up&utm_content=version_A&promo=

How will President-Elect Biden Help Seniors with COVID-19?

Before you object, take note. This is not a political “post”.  Whenever there’s a change of Administration, it makes sense to look to the winning candidate’s platform and policy aspirations to predict how new leadership may impact things we care about. And I care about care for seniors. Home Healthcare News’s recent article entitled “‘Our Work Begins with Getting COVID Under Control’: What a Biden Administration Means for Home-Based Care” says that long-term care and protecting America’s senior population will need to be at the very center of President-Elect Biden’s response.

“Our work begins with getting COVID under control,” Biden said during his victory speech. “We cannot repair the economy, restore our vitality or relish life’s most precious moments — hugging a grandchild, birthdays, weddings, graduations, all the moments that matter most to us — until we get this virus under control.”

As the U.S. nears the mark of 18 million total coronavirus cases, the Biden administration’s response to the ongoing pandemic will need to be wide-ranging and thorough, impacting everything from vaccine development and distribution, to additional rounds of relief for health care providers.

“I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around,” Biden continued.

The 78-year-old Biden has commented that he has a deep appreciation of home-based care. In July, he outlined a $775 billion plan to overhaul the nation’s caregiving infrastructure, which primarily consists of women and people of color. Biden said he wants to create upwards of three million new caregiving and education jobs over the 10 years and provide pathways for former caregivers to re-enter the workforce. That plan also called for a $450 million increase in funding for senior care. Some of those funds would be earmarked to improve wages and labor conditions for in-home care workers.

“Home health workers do God’s work, but aren’t paid much,” the then presidential candidate said on social media. “They have few benefits, and 40% are still on SNAP or Medicaid. It’s unacceptable. I’ll give caregivers and early childhood educators a much-needed raise.”

Biden has repeatedly brought attention to very specific, innovative programs that typically only industry insiders know about. This includes making specific references to CAPABLE, the program from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing aimed at supporting aging in place, by coordinating nursing, therapy and handyman services in the home.

Biden and his Administration will likely try to get more resources for home-based care providers and other long-term care operators. In its official policy plan for nursing home regulations, for instance, the Biden team stated it would invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the overall supply of PPE. Right now, “protecting older Americans” is one of the main priorities featured on the Biden-Harris Transition website, which hasn’t been overlooked by those in aging services.

“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” President-Elect Biden said recently.

Regardless of how you voted, I hope you’ll join me in wishing the new team success in that fight.

Reference: Home Healthcare News (Nov. 9, 2020) “‘Our Work Begins with Getting COVID Under Control’: What a Biden Administration Means for Home-Based Care”

What are Young People Doing to Help Seniors in Isolation?

With the pandemic continuing to be a part of our world, family caregivers are increasingly concerned about loved ones’ isolation at home or in facilities. What can others do to help?

Many older adults and their family caregivers have little human interaction in “normal” times, and the pandemic makes it even worse.

Research shows that isolation and loneliness are as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, says AARP’s recent article entitled “Teens Reach Out to Isolated Older Americans Through Online Programs.”

However, some new programs and approaches that have come about in the coronavirus quarantine can have a positive impact far beyond the pandemic. Let’s look at three virtual intergenerational programs that bring hope for the future.

Music and Games to Brighten Spirits. Fifteen-year-old Maya Joshi and her twin sister, Riya, started daily video calls with their grandparents when the pandemic took hold. Seeing how much their grandparents enjoyed it, Maya decided to do something to help other isolated older adults. She launched Lifting Hearts with the Arts in April. The intergenerational program involves teen volunteers connecting online with residents in 17 Illinois nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They present musical performances, games and 1:1 video chats.

These virtual activities are making a significant impact and are improving the residents’ moods, said the director of programming at a nursing home in Springfield, Illinois. After one resident grew more comfortable with the technology, she began initiating video calls with her friends and family. These seniors now have something to look forward to and they like seeing young smiles on the screen.

Meals and conversation To Eliminate Loneliness. The Los Angeles-based Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s (YMAA) YouthCare program, in partnership with the University of Southern California, has been training students to provide in-home nonmedical respite and cognitively stimulating activities for people living with dementia.

The program was suspended when the COVID-19 lockdown began. As a rapid response to the pandemic, YMAA reached out to their chapters in high schools and college campuses across the country to create Meals Together. It’s a program where students have virtual visits during mealtime with those in early stages of dementia and their caregivers.

In only three months, 39 YMAA chapters are participating in the expanding program. They now serve 175 users. They partner with nonprofits, like Meals on Wheels and assisted living facilities, to identify older participants. Seniors can also sign up on their own.

Natashia Townsend, YMAA’s director of caregiving programs, says they describe the program to participants in early stages of dementia as a way to help the students as they prepare for their careers. “It makes them feel empowered to help someone else,” Townsend explains. The youth volunteers also find it rewarding. “It’s just a great way to connect, and a lot of our seniors are feeling lonely at this time; they just want to feel like they have a friend,” she says.

Reference: AARP (July 27, 2020) “Teens Reach Out to Isolated Older Americans Through Online Programs”

 

Medical Advice by Teleconference

How Did Country Star Hal Ketchum Die?

Country music star Hal Ketchum, who found fame in the ’1990s with the critically acclaimed album “Past The Point of Rescue,” passed away at home, according to a report in The New York Post entitled “Country singer Hal Ketchum dead at 67 after battle with dementia.”  His death was hard enough on his family. The high medical bills and expenses associated with his dementia are still with them.

Ketchum’s wife Andrea shared the news on his Facebook page, writing: “With great sadness and grief, we announce that Hal passed away peacefully last night at home due to complications of dementia. “May his music live on forever in your hearts and bring you peace. Andrea.”

Ketchum was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, an ailment of the spinal column, which forced him to relearn basic tasks, such as how to walk and play the guitar.

However, he continued to record and would often hit the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts. Ketchum sold more than five million records in his career. His two most famous songs were “Small Town Saturday Night” and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll.”

He has had his songs recorded by many artists, including Trisha Yearwood and Neal Diamond. Ketchum earned five million-air awards from BMI, acknowledging those songs that have been broadcast over one million times.

In 2019 his wife announced he was suffering from early on-set senile dementia and would no longer be touring.

“Dementia is an exhausting and confusing illness and now it’s time for Hal to stay home with loved ones,” she shared, saying that he was glad to be at home with friends and family.

Dementia is more frequently found in people over the age of 65. However, it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can start when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Treatment and early diagnosis can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function.

Ketchum’s family organized a benefit concert in January 2020 to help with medical bills and raised over $20,000.

“Hal has sung his last tune for us on this earthly plane of existence,” read the description of the concert, according to The Sun.

“He can no longer tour or make records to support his family. Now it’s time for us to step up and help with the almost insurmountable medical bills and living expenses that are piling up.”

Ketchum became an addict at 15 after losing his mom to MS. He started with alcohol and moved on to drugs, including cocaine. However, he became sober in 1997, after spending a month at the Betty Ford Clinic. He married his wife Andrea in 2014.

Reference: New York Post (Nov. 24, 2020) “Country singer Hal Ketchum dead at 67 after battle with dementia”

 

generations

What’s the Difference Between Nursing Homes and Assisted Living?

My parents had the best experience in the dozen or so years at the end of their lives, at a continuing care community in the Richmond area. But there are many choices for senior living.  US News & World Report’s recent article entitled “Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living” explains that a big question is determining what type of facility is the best fit, a nursing home, assisted living or another senior community. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), long-term care residences include:

  • Assisted Living Facilities
  • Nursing Homes
  • Board and Care Homes; and
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities.

We will look at the major differences among these options.

Assisted Living. Assisted living and nursing home facilities are different in many ways. One big difference is in how to pay for them. Some assisted living facilities do not accept Medicaid and are private pay only. Medicaid does cover nursing home care because states must do so under federal law. That’s the only way some can cover the cost in many instances.

Otherwise, the primary difference is in the level of care each can provide. Assisted living is for those who need some help with daily care, but not as much as what a nursing home has to offer. These facilities are for those who can still take care of themselves, but could use a bit of help with daily activities such as:

  • Housecleaning and laundry
  • Household chores and cooking
  • Bathing
  • Medication management; and/or
  • Transportation to medical appointments or stores.

The residents use any or all of the services offered and pay for the level of care they are receive. However, the more care, the higher the cost. Assisted living residents typically have their own private apartments and share common areas, like the dining room and community rooms. Most offer three meals a day for those who don’t want to cook, 24-hour supervision and security and socializing and recreational events with other residents. Many assisted living communities even permit pets.

Nursing Homes. Nursing homes are also called “skilled nursing facilities” and provide a higher level of daily care—especially medical care that assisted living facilities aren’t equipped to handle. Along with the same help for daily living that assisted living communities provide, a nursing home can offer:

  • Nursing care
  • Rehabilitation services, such as physical, occupational and speech therapy
  • Help getting dressed or in and out of bed
  • Frequent or daily medical management for chronic conditions; and
  • Some facilities specialize in memory care for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Board and Care Homes. Also called “residential care facilities” or “group homes,” these are small homes of 20 or fewer residents living in private or shared rooms. Similar to assisted living facilities, these places can provide personal care and meals but no nursing or medical care.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities. Also called “life care communities,” they offer different levels of service in one location, like independent housing, assisted living, and a skilled nursing facility all in one place. Residents can begin at one level of care and transition into higher care, as needed.

How to pay for care is another common misunderstanding, because unless you have long-term care insurance, assisted living is paid out of pocket. For a skilled nursing facility, if you are hospitalized and discharged to a care facility, Medicare will pay a set amount for a certain time. The responsibility for payment then goes back to the resident.

Only when a senior is legally destitute, can you use Medicaid. Talk to an elder law attorney about the details.

Reference: US News & World Report (November 52, 2020) “Nursing Homes vs. Assisted Living”

 

surgical risks

What are Riskiest Surgeries for Seniors?

Are you considering the risk of surgery for yourself or an older family member as her healthcare agent? Consider this:  a team of researchers recently compiled a list of 277 risky procedures for older adults. They hope it’s useful in preparing for the potential of unwanted outcomes. The study was published in JAMA Surgery and was generated by using admissions data of patients 65 years and older.

Considerable’s recent article entitled “These 10 surgeries are considered “uniquely high risk” for older adults” says that scientists found 10 surgeries to be especially problematic for older patients.

  1. Adrenal Gland Removal (Adrenalectomy). This is the removal of one or both of the adrenal glands which produce hormones necessary in carrying out daily bodily functions. A tumor can form on the glands and causes increased hormone production. When this happens, the gland(s) needs to be removed. The typical recovery time after this surgery is two to six weeks. The risks include blood clots, infections and high blood pressure.
  2. Plaque Buildup Removal from the Carotid Arteries (Carotid Endarterectomy). This is a procedure that removes plaque buildup from inside a carotid artery in the neck. It is performed to restore blood flow to the brain when there are symptoms of reduced blood flow. A carotid endarterectomy is typically preventative of a stroke and removes blockages that might trigger one. The risks include clotting, stroke, or death, but taking anti-clotting medicines before and after can reduce these risks.
  3. Arm Blood-Vessel Replacement (Peripheral Vascular Bypass Surgery). Blood vessel replacement in the arm improves blood flow when one or more of the arteries become narrowed or blocked. A blood vessel from another part of the body or a synthetic blood vessel is used to replace the damaged blood vessel. Risks include irregular heartbeat, infection and death.
  4. Resection or Replacement of Abdominal Veins. When a blood vessel causes tissue injury in the abdomen, some of the tissue might need to be removed or replaced. Risks can include pulmonary embolism, infection and excess bleeding.
  5. Varicose Vein Removal. These veins form in the legs, when the valves in the veins aren’t functioning properly. This can cause pain, blood clots, or bleeding. A doctor might recommend varicose vein removal, which has risks that include nerve injury, heavy bleeding and infection.
  6. High Gastric Bypass. Weight loss surgery changes how the stomach and small intestine handle the food a person eats. There are several criteria that must be met to receive this procedure. High Gastric Bypass can pose major risks and complications, such as malnutrition, perforation of stomach or intestines and dumping syndrome (when food gets “dumped” directly from the stomach pouch into the small intestine without being digested).
  7. Proctopexy (Rectal Prolapse Surgery). This procedure is performed to correct stool leakage, inability to control bowel movements (fecal incontinence), or obstructed bowel movements. This procedure helps put the rectum back in place. The risks can include damage to nearby nerves and organs, narrowing (stricture) of the anal opening and development of new or worsened constipation.
  8. Bile Duct Excision. If a tumor is blocking the flow of bile to the bile ducts, a surgeon may remove them. Nausea, jaundice, or a high temperature (over 101) are potential risks.
  9. Urinary Reconstruction. Sometimes a person’s urinary bladder is removed because of cancer, a non-working bladder, or another medical reason. This procedure creates a new way for urine to exit the body when a bladder is not present. A risk of this procedure is urine backing up into the kidneys, causing infections, stone formation, or organ damage over time.
  10. Ureter Repair. When the ureter is injured (i.e., scar tissue forms after an accident or surgery), more surgery might be required to repair it. Complications include chest pain, blood clots and trouble urinating.

Before any planned procedures, be sure your Medical Directive and powers of attorney are up to date. Review any needed updates with an estate planning attorney.

A note on dental exams. Dental examinations should be considered before any surgery—but they’re especially important for certain heart surgeries, along with joint replacements that use implanted devices. With both joint replacement and cardiovascular valve replacement surgery, the risk of the bacteria from the mouth traveling systemically to the surgical site is very high. During a dental procedure, the gum tissue can be broken and that lets bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream. The bacteria can go to any foreign material in the body and attach, frequently developing a biofilm. This makes it very difficult to treat with antibiotics alone. As a result, surgical removal may be required for complete eradication.

Reference: Considerable (Nov. 4, 2020) “These 10 surgeries are considered “uniquely high risk” for older adults”

 

Medical Advice by Teleconference

How Do I Tell Fact from Fiction with the Flu?

Flu season officially spans October to May. We’re just getting going. That makes now an opportune time to get the real facts about the virus that claims tens of thousands of lives — a majority of them older adults — every year. AARP’s recent article entitled “7 Flu Myths Debunked” sets the record straight on seven common flu myths to help you strengthen your defenses.

Myth No. 1: Cold weather is the cause of the flu. Wrong. Viruses cause flu, not cold weather. However, the influenza virus survives better in colder environments. In colder weather, individuals also tend to gather inside with less air circulating, causing a higher risk of flu spread. Lower temperatures may also negatively impact the immune response, which makes us more susceptible to flu.  It spreads via droplets as people around us talk, sneeze, or cough.

Myth No. 2: Flu is merely a bad cold. Not every respiratory ailment is the flu. Influenza and the common cold can have similar symptoms, but they are caused by different viruses and each has distinct symptoms. A cold may give you a runny or stuffy nose, but the flu typically doesn’t. A cold can make you feel crummy, but the flu can make you feel like you were hit by a Mack truck. Colds also rarely lead to dangerous complications. However, a bad case of flu can move to the lungs and cause serious infections.

Myth No. 3: Antibiotics will help treat flu. Not true. The flu is a viral infection, and antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. Sometimes complications from flu, like pneumonia, are treated with antibiotics, but flu itself is not. To treat influenza, in addition to over-the-counter drugs for cough and stuffy nose, there are approved antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu (which should be taken early in the onset of flu symptoms to be effective).

Myth No. 4: You don’t need a flu vaccine if you don’t get sick. Influenza is very contagious. Even healthy people can get it. A flu shot is the very best intervention we have to prevent flu infections and, sometimes, the serious complications it can cause. Everyone should get a flu shot every year—and in the middle of the pandemic, it becomes even more important. The flu virus can also mutate from season to season. As a result, if a strain circulates that your immune system doesn’t have experience fighting, you can be more susceptible to getting sick. Getting a flu shot will help because the shot will build immunity to the specific strains circulating in a given season.

Myth No. 5: A flu shot can make you sick. There’s no active virus in the flu vaccine, so it can’t cause the flu. Your body may hurt because it’s building up immunity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu vaccine stopped about 4.4 million influenza illnesses in the especially severe 2018-2019 flu season. It stopped 2.3 million flu-related medical visits, 58,000 flu-related hospital stays and approximately 3,500 deaths.

Myth No. 6: You might get a “stomach flu.” The word “flu” is often used incorrectly for several unrelated viruses and other illnesses. Although the flu can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, a stomach bug that causes nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea isn’t the flu.

Myth No. 7: If you get a flu shot, you won’t get the flu. After you get the shot, it can take up to two weeks for immunity to be built up in the body, but it’s not 100% effective at preventing the flu. That said, the flu shot will make any symptoms you do get less severe and help your provider distinguish between common flu symtoms and the COVID-19 virus. It’s also especially important to help lessen the strain on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reference: AARP (Oct. 22, 2020) “7 Flu Myths Debunked”

 

estate planning

Scottish Actor Sean Connery May Have Had Dementia

The famous screen actor, Sean Connery, who was famous for portraying the original on-screen James Bond, passed away recently at his home in the Bahamas.

Yahoo News’s recent article entitled “Sean Connery widow reveals he had suffered from dementia” reported that Connery died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by family members, according to his widow Micheline Roquebrune.

“I was with him all the time and he just slipped away,” the 91-year-old told the London Daily Mail.

“He had dementia and it took its toll on him. He got his final wish to slip away without any fuss. It was no life for him. He was not able to express himself lately.”

Connery will be remembered at a private funeral ceremony, with a memorial event to be held later, according to a publicist. He was knighted in 2000 and won many awards during his decades-spanning career, including an Oscar, three Golden Globes and two Bafta awards.

However, it was his smooth, Scottish-accented portrayal of the suave licensed-to-kill spy 007 that earned him lasting worldwide fame and adoration. He was the first actor to say the unforgettable “Bond, James Bond.”

He made six official films as novelist Ian Fleming’s spy, giving what many still consider to be the definitive portrayal.

Former 007 actor Pierce Brosnan joined the flood of weekend tributes to the Scottish actor, who he said, “led the way for us all who followed in your iconic footsteps.”

“You were my greatest James Bond as a boy, and as a man who became James Bond himself, you cast a long shadow of cinematic splendor that will live on forever,” Brosnan added.

Connery was born in Edinburgh in 1930. He married French artist Roquebrune in 1974 after they met in Morocco in 1970.

They lived outside his native Britain for decades, previously owning a home in the Spanish resort of Marbella and then in the Bahamas.

“He was gorgeous, and we had a wonderful life together,” the Tunisian-born widow said. “He was a model of a man. It is going to be very hard without him. I know that. But it could not last forever and he went peacefully.”

Dementia can happen to anyone. For information on how families deal its onset and paying for care, visit www.nancelawfirm.net and our past blogs. Or call for a time to call and review matters.

Reference: Yahoo News (Nov. 1, 2020) “Sean Connery widow reveals he had suffered from dementia”

 

elder law

Good Planning for Life Is Also Good Planning for a Pandemic

The fear of the unknown and a sense of loss of control is sending many people to estate planning attorney’s offices to have wills, advance directives and other documents prepared, reports the article “Legal lessons from a pandemic: What you can plan for” from The Press-Enterprise.

However, people are not just planning because they are worried about becoming incapacitated or dying because of COVID. High net-worth people are also planning because they are concerned about the changes the election may bring, changes to what are now historically advantageous estate tax laws and planning to take advantage of tax laws, as they stand pre-December 31, 2020.

Regardless of your income or assets, it is always good to take control of your future and protect yourself and your family, by having an up-to-date estate plan in place. Anyone who is over age 18 needs the following:

  • Health Care Directive
  • Power of Attorney
  • HIPPA Release Form
  • Last Will and Testament

Any assets without beneficiary designations should be considered for a trust, depending upon your overall estate. Trusts can be used to take assets out of a taxable estate, establish control over how the assets are distributed and to avoid probate. You don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from the use of trusts.

Preparing estate planning documents in a last-minute rush, is always a terrible idea.

If you have more free time during the pandemic, consider using some of your free time to have your estate plan implemented or updated. This should be a top priority. The state of the world right now has all of us thinking more about our mortality, our values and the legacy we want to leave behind. Most estate planning attorneys encourage clients to think about the next three to five years. What would be important to you, if something were to happen in that time frame?

Estate planning is about more than distributing assets upon death. It addresses incapacity—what would happen if you became too ill or injured to care for yourself? Who would make medical decisions for you, such as what kind of medical care would you want, who will your doctors be and where will you live in the short-term and long-term? Incapacity planning is a big part of an estate plan.

When naming people to care for you in the event of incapacity, provide your estate planning attorney with three names, in case your first or second choices are not able to act on your behalf. Most people name their spouse, but what if you were both in an accident and could not help each other?

In recent months, Advance Health Care Directives have received a lot of attention, but they are not just about ventilator use and intubation. An Advance Health Care Directive is used to state your preferences concerning life-sustaining treatment, pain relief and organ donation. The agent named in your health care directive is also the person who will carry out post-death wishes, so provide as many details as you can about your wishes for cremation, burial, religious services, etc.

Trusts are a way to preserve a family legacy. A living trust gives you the ability to decide who you want involved, in case of your death or incapacity. You decide on your beneficiaries, and if you want your assets going directly to those beneficiaries or if they should be held in trust until certain goals are met, like finishing college or reaching a certain age or life milestone.

Your estate planning attorney will help you clarify family legacy goals, whether they include a beneficiary with special needs, a supplement for children who go into public service careers, etc.

Reference: The Press-Enterprise (Oct. 18, 2020) “Legal lessons from a pandemic: What you can plan for”

Suggested Key Terms: Pandemic, Estate Planning, Advance Medical Directive, Living Trust, Legacy, Incapacity, Beneficiaries, Tax Laws, Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, HIPPA Release Form, Last Will and Testament

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