Estate Planning and the Coronavirus

March 10, 2020

Not to be an alarmist, but the recent spread of coronavirus has me thinking about estate planning during a possible pandemic. Only time will tell if things will get worse, but the ease by which coronavirus is spreading and its potential mortality rate are relatively high. With that being said, here is some available information as of February 2020:

  • 80% of the cases seem to be relatively mild
  • 20% of the cases turn more severe
  • The mortality rate is preliminary but seems to range between 2-3% of those who contract it
  • The mortality rate seems to rise as we get older - children are less susceptible. Most of the people who die from the coronavirus are over the age of 60, and people who have chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes have a 5–10% higher chance of dying from it.
  • It seems to be spread easily, such as through the air and through surfaces that can hold the virus, unlike other recent viruses (SARS, etc.)

Of course, do not get your information about coronavirus from our webpage - follow this link to the Center For Disease Control (CDC) for the most recent information.

We are always at risk of becoming incapacitated or deceased — even without the coronavirus seemingly taking over the world by infecting and killing thousands of people. Did you know that the World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die annually from the flu? Or that 1.25 million people die in car accidents every year with an average of 3,287 deaths per day? An estimated 37,000 people die from car accidents in the United States alone each year. The numbers make it clear that we are always at risk of incapacity or death. However, it is times like these, when there is a global sickness receiving ample media attention, that really estate planning is thrust to the forefront for many people.

We always think about things from an estate planning perspective. You are already receiving advice about stocking up on food and medicines. But what should you do from a legal perspective?

· Review your last will and testament or revocable living trust - are they accurate to your wishes? These are the things you want to think about here:

  • Will your executor or successor trustee be able to serve?
  • Is the named executor or successor trustee still the best person to help?
  • Do you have the correctly named beneficiaries? Are they still living?
  • Is the beneficiary responsible? Should they receive their bequest outright?

· Trust Funding: If you have a revocable living trust, are your assets transferred to your trust? Most of your assets should be titled to your trust in order to avoid probate upon your death.

· Do you have your durable power of attorney done? Your advance directives? These documents are very important in the event you became incapacitated. They should be done by a good elder law attorney and not downloaded from the internet.

· Beneficiary designations: Now would be the time to check the beneficiary designations of your IRA/401k/annuities and life insurance to make sure you have the correct beneficiaries named upon your death.

Realistically speaking, time will be extremely important in preparing before you get sick. If you need legal work on your estate plan, no attorney would want to put him/herself, or their staff, in harm's way by intentionally exposing themselves to someone sick with coronavirus. If you get coronavirus without proper preparation, do not expect to try and get legal work done as you may spread the virus to the attorney and their staff.

Only time will tell if coronavirus will get worse and spread throughout the world, but NOW is the time to make sure your estate plan is in order. If you get sick, you will likely not be able to get legal advice as you would expose others to the virus.

Citations

DeLoach, D. Rep. “Estate Planning and Coronavirus.” DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., www.dhclaw.com/blog/estate-planning-and-coronavirus.cfm.

Souza, Keoni. “Coronavirus Fuels Desire for Estate Planning.” LAW OFFICE OF KEONI SOUZA, LLC, Website, 7 Mar. 2020, www.keonisouzalaw.com/post/coronavirus-and-its-impact-on-estate-planning.

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