Are your affairs in order?
Estate Planning for COVID-19. Most people do not want to talk about the possibility of being physically or mentally incapacitated, about death, or what happens to your loved ones after you pass away. It is a sensitive subject, but without a comprehensive estate plan, family members can be caught off-guard when an unexpected tragedy occurs.
There are 48 million seniors in this country. According to a new Caring.com survey, only 42% of U.S. adults currently have estate planning documents such as a will or living trust. For those with children under the age of 18, the figure is even lower, with just 36% having an end-of-life plan in place. Estate Planning for COVID-19 is very important.
If you already have an estate plan, you should be reviewing it with an attorney at least every 2 years because all estate plans require ongoing maintenance. However, under certain circumstances, such as the current coronavirus outbreak, it is more important than ever to make sure your estate planning documents are up to date and that they accurately reflect your desires and estate planning goals. This is especially important for those who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.
A study conducted in late February in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that children age 10 and under accounted for just 1% of all COVID-19 cases while adults in the 30-79 age groups represented an alarming 87%. The World Health Organization (WHO) found similar statistics in China, with 78% of patients falling between the ages of 30 and 69.
Aging isn’t fun for most people (for a whole host of reasons), but the older you get, the likelier you are not only to contract a SARS-CoV-2 infection (the virus that causes COVID-19), but to suffer a severe or fatal case. A study from China found that the average age of coronavirus patients who developed acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is 61. ARDS is a condition in which fluid collects in the lungs’ air sacs, depriving organs of oxygen. It can occur in those who are critically ill or who have significant injuries and is often fatal, the risk increasing with age and severity of illness. People with ARDS have severe shortness of breath and are often unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.
The Center For Disease Control states that adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Dr. Nagendra Gupta, internist at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital provided that “in a recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is the largest study on COVID-19 published so far, the case fatality rate was close to 15% in patients over the age of 80 as against the average overall case fatality rate of 2.3%.”
When a global pandemic strikes with a 15% fatality rate among the elderly and those with serious health problems, there is no better time than now to plan ahead and either create an estate plan or review your existing estate plan with an attorney to ensure that it is up-to-date and accurate.
There are many advantages of having a comprehensive estate plan such as avoiding probate, tax savings, planning for incapacity, providing for minor children, but perhaps most importantly, is peace of mind. Going to see an estate planning attorney may be like going to the dentist for some people, but knowing that you have prepared for the unexpected and that your needs, desires, and goals are in writing can relieve some tension during these uncertain times.
Mr. Malloy is a Senior Attorney at RJS LAW with over 15 years of experience in trusts and estates, business, and real estate matters.