senior couple standing together

“Seniors are especially at risk during the coronavirus pandemic. The numbers are shocking.”

The numbers are frightening, especially for those over 80. By the time seniors with COVID-19 are admitted to the hospital, it’s usually too late to do anything about their legacy. This topic was taken up recently in the article “Tips for protecting seniors and their legacy in the pandemic” from My Edmond News. That includes creating a last will and testament, naming a health care agent through a health care proxy or health care power of attorney, and having a conversation about end-of-life wishes. Here are thoughts on how to stay safe and prepare for the worst.

  • Follow the recommended health guidelines and be careful. Hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowds, wearing masks and cleaning surfaces are very important for seniors. Online shopping or going to the grocery store during senior hours are better choices, if you have a choice.
  • Beware of scammers. Scammers who target the elderly use their fear of the pandemic to provoke action. One of the latest scams is a phone call from someone 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. No legitimate contact tracer will ask these questions.
  • Make a plan for your digital assets. Seniors are active on Facebook, use email and a variety of apps to stay in touch with grandchildren and manage their finances. Make a list of all your online accounts and passwords so that a trusted family member or friend will be able to help if you are incapacitated or die. Untangling digital assets is much more complex than tangible assets—there’s no paper trail to follow.
  • Get your legal affairs in order now. Depending on your state of residence, you may be able to have documents witnessed and notarized remotely. Your estate planning attorney will know what the current rules are and be able to get documents prepared.
  • Create a Power of Attorney. This will let the person you name as POA take care of your finances, pay bills and keep your financial life from falling apart if you become ill.
  • Create a Health Care Proxy or Health Care Power of Attorney. This allows the person you name to get information on your medical decisions and make health care decision if you cannot.
  • Use an estate planning attorney to have these documents created. These are powerful documents, and knowledgeable advice in helping select the right person can prevent a world of trouble in the future. The estate planning attorney who hears you say “Well, my nephew is the only one, but he’s been in and out of rehab for six years now,” can help you make a better choice!
  • Have a Will 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 really don’t want an old boyfriend or ex-spouse receiving your entire life insurance policy.

Once you have your estate plan done, you will realize it was easy to do and well worth the peace of mind of knowing that you and your loved ones are protected.

Reference: My Edmond News (June 1, 2020) “Tips for protecting seniors and their legacy in the pandemic

For more information on asset preservation, elder law, and estate planning, please visit my estate planning website.

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.