The coronavirus (COVID-19) has all of us unnerved, particularly if you live in the New York City Metropolitan Area, as I do. Understandably, the focus needs to be on staying safe and avoiding infection from the virus, and knowing what to do if you or a family member becomes infected.
The virus also raises significant financial and legal concerns, which should be addressed promptly. Take an inventory of your situation, determine what needs to be done, and take action. Here are the 5 areas that I addressed for my family, and the precise steps that I took. Now is the time for you to do the same for yourself and your family. Don’t delay, this is too important.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. For each family member, make a list of their medical conditions, and any medications they are taking on a regular basis. Make a note on your calendar when their prescriptions should be renewed, and make sure you have contact information for all of their doctors and their local pharmacy.
- Money accounts and investments. Make a list of the family’s financial assets, by financial institution, title of the account, power of attorney (if any), designated beneficiary (if any), account number, and contact information for the bank officer or financial advisor. Oftentimes, when one spouse is in charge of paying the bills and managing the family’s finances, the other spouse has little or no idea of what to do or who to contact, should it become necessary for him or her to take charge.
- Advance Directives. How would you manage the affairs (e.g., paying the bills, arranging for healthcare, making medical decisions) for a family member who becomes incapacitated? A Power of Attorney with an appropriate scope of authority, and a Health Care Proxy, are critical documents that you will want and need. A Health Care Proxy is an important document even for college age children who legally are adults (at age 18 in New York). Even though you are their parent, you no longer have the right to make medical decisions for them, should they become incapacitated. You certainly do not want to have to incur the delay, expense, and uncertain result, of a court proceeding to seek guardianship under stressful circumstances — particularly now when the courts are in limited operation.
- Medical Insurance and Long-Term Care. Do you have adequate medical insurance, and are you aware that it does not cover long-term care (home care, adult day care, assisted living, nursing home)? Check each family member’s medical insurance (employer plan, Medicare, Medicaid, NYStateofHealth (Obamacare), or other), and make sure they have their card available if needed. What is your plan if long-term care is needed? The costs can be ruinous if you are not prepared. Long-term care insurance might be one option; Medicaid planning is another very viable option (particularly in New York State).
- Estate Plan. Even though we know we are not immortal, many of us are reluctant to think about estate planning. However, creating an estate plan can bring tremendous peace of mind. In fact, I think making an estate plan is a necessity if you have a spouse and/or children. If anything should happen to you, you don’t want to leave a mess for your family to sort out. Even worse, the lack of an estate plan could leave them in a vulnerable position. There are different ways of creating an effective estate plan, some fairly simple and others more complex. It’s crucial to get competent advice on this topic. Whether your plan is simple or complex, knowing that you have addressed this issue will provide a sense of relief, and more confidence about the future, in these uncertain times.
I hope that you and your family members, stay well and stay safe during this difficult period. Here are a couple of websites to consult for updates on how to protect your health and what to do if you get sick ( https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/), and for New York’s rules and guidance on conduct and essential services during the crisis (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/).
Don’t hesitate to contact our law firm if you need help with estate planning, advance directives, or Medicaid. If you need assistance with financial or medical issues, please let us know, and we can make appropriate referrals.
Our office building is closed, but our firm is very much open. All of our attorneys and staff are working remotely, and are available to existing clients and new clients.
Be well, and stay safe,