On Friday, December 11 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. Over the next week, an initial shipment of 2.9 million doses will be sent around the US and highly vulnerable people will begin to breathe easy for the first time in almost a year. This wonderful news brings nation-wide relief and yet it comes with the lurking danger that we forget the lessons Covid-19 has so rudely taught.
Everyone has heard the age-old adage that you never know what tomorrow may bring and that prevention is the best medicine and yet for many, it took a pandemic to grasp the profound truth of these statements. Covid-19 ravaged (and continues to ravage) communities, provoking unexpected deaths and causing thriving businesses to shutter. Individuals have been able to do little beyond wear a mask, maintain social distance, and plan for the worst while hoping for the best.
If it is true that most Americans will be vaccinated by June, masks and social distancing will soon be a thing of the past but the importance of planning will remain—especially for the aging and the vulnerable. After all, even in a post-Covid world, you still never know what tomorrow holds. Having an estate plan in place means that while you cannot control the future, you can ensure your life’s work is protected and your family is secure.
Four Estate Planning Tips for Seniors (And Any Other Mortal Adult)
1. Start Now
As obvious as this one may sound, its importance cannot be overstated. Not only has the future not yet been written but many of the most powerful estate planning legal instruments work best if employed with foresight. Ensuring you qualify for Medicaid is a prime example. Some 70% of folks over 65 will need long-term care services in their remaining years and yet most will neither be able to shoulder the cost nor qualify for Medicaid. Advance planning provides a solution but because Medicaid employs a five-year look-back period when assessing candidates, time is of the essence.
2. Talk to Family and Loved Ones
Estate planning begins with a conversation between you and your loved ones. Should tension and fallings out be avoided down the road, it is crucial that you talk about goals and plans now. List your assets and seek input on how they might be divided, explain any sensitive decisions you might make, and determine who is best suited to serve in the roles of executor, medical, and legal power of attorney.
3. Seek Out an Experienced Attorney
Fancy Pinterest cookies are a DIY project; estate planning is not. While the internet is rife with websites that offer low-cost will, power of attorney, and other legal documents, these services do not keep up to date with constantly changing legislation and are rarely state-specific. While failed cookies might mean a ruined evening, a failed estate plan can mean years of ruinous consequences for your life’s work and your loved ones.
4. Think Long-Term
A DIY kit may seem like the obvious choice at a time when in-person meetings are limited and the need for a plan is urgent, but such short-term thinking often creates problems down the road. A poorly-drafted plan can result in unintended tax consequences, the bank refusing to accept your power of attorney, failure to properly exclude family members you wish to disinherit, and a host of other issues. If cognitive decline sets in and your medical power of attorney is improperly drafted, loved ones may have difficulty advocating for you when you need it most. And should you die before rectifying these issues, the financial and emotional cost of doing so can be enormous. While there is no denying that working with an experienced estate planning attorney is an expense, in the long term it is often cheaper than not doing so.
At Miller Estate and Elder Law we are only interested in working with clients to whom we can bring value. That means that if we chat and we determine we cannot be of assistance in your case, you will not see a bill. If we can help you secure a brighter, more peaceful future, however, it would be our pleasure to work together.
Should you like to learn more or gain greater insight into our practice, check out our free workshops, which are currently available both live and in pre-recorded format so that you can enjoy them from the safety and comfort of your own home. You can also contact us to set up your consultation.