The Costs of Care with Alzheimer’s

Health care and long-term care costs for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias (ADRD) are staggering as dementia is one of society’s costliest conditions.The Alzheimer’s Association has published its 2020 report entitled Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures (alz.org). The findings give pause when contemplating the future of many Americans who will be living with crippling dementia.

The year 2020 sees total payments for all individuals with dementia diseases to reach an estimated 305 billion dollars. This substantial sum does not include the value of informal caregivers who are uncompensated for their efforts. Of this 305 billion dollars Medicare and Medicaid are projected to cover 67 percent of the total health care and long-term care costs of people living with dementia, which accounts for about 206 billion dollars of the total cost of care. Out of pocket expenditure projections are 22 percent of total payments or 66 billion dollars. Other payment sources such as private insurance, other managed care organizations, as well as uncompensated care account for 11 percent of total costs or 33 billion dollars.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) cite that 27 percent of older Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias who have Medicare also have Medicaid coverage. As a comparison, the percentage of those Americans without dementia is 11 percent. The addition of Medicaid becomes a necessity for some as it covers nursing home and other long-term care services for those individuals with meager income and assets. The extensive use of CMS services, particularly Medicaid, by people with dementia translates into extremely high costs. Despite the high rate of expenditure by federal social and health services, Americans living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia still incur high out-of-pocket expenses compared to beneficiaries without dementia. Much of these costs pay for Medicare, additional health insurance premiums, and associated deductibles.

Older Americans living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia have twice the number of hospital stays per year than those without cognitive issues. Dementia patients with comorbidities such as coronary artery disease, COPD, stroke, or cancer, to name a few, have higher health care costs than those without coexisting serious medical conditions. In addition to more hospital stays, older Alzheimer’s sufferers require more home health care visits and skilled nursing facility stays per year than other older people without dementia.

Cost projections for Medicare, Medicaid, and out of pocket costs for Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia continue to increase. The average life span of an American with Alzheimer’s is 6 -8 years, and as the disease progresses, so do the requirements of care and support. This care and support include medical treatment, prescription medications, medical equipment, safety services, home safety modifications, personal care, adult daycare, and ultimately residence in a skilled nursing facility. Disease-modifying therapies and treatments remain elusive, and there is no cure for Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases. ADRD imposes a tremendous financial burden on patients and their families, payers, health care delivery systems, and society.

In the absence of a cure, the Alzheimer’s Association predicts the total direct medical cost expenditures in the US for ADRD will exceed 1 trillion dollars in 2050 because of increases in elderly population projections. Health policy planners and decision-makers must gain a comprehensive understanding of the economic gravity that Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases present to the US population. The direct and indirect total medical and social costs and accompanying solution-driven mandates must be identified to CMS, private insurance groups, facilities with dementia units, and family systems that function as non-compensated caregivers.

We help families plan for the possibility of needing long term care, and how to pay for it. If you or a loved one would like to talk about your needs, please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

The New Age of Long-Term Care Insurance

Nursing-home care can be extremely expensive if you become seriously ill or injured. You might also know that Medicare would cover only a minimal amount of those costs. Private insurance doesn’t seem like a good bet either, if you’ve heard horror stories about skyrocketing premium costs and difficulties in even obtaining long-term care (LTC) insurance in the first place.

There may be a better way. “Hybrid” policies essentially combine life insurance or an annuity with LTC coverage. (The benefits can be known as “accelerated death benefits” or “living benefits,” or the coverage can be called “life/long term care,” “linked benefits,” or a “combo” policy.)

This type of policy will pay if you need nursing care, but, if you never need that, then the policy functions like standard whole-life coverage. It’s a win-win. Say, for example, you buy a hybrid policy with a $100,000 death benefit. You eventually need $50,000 of that coverage to pay for LTC. Then, when you pass, your beneficiary would receive a $50,000 payout from what’s left of the original $100,000 coverage.

Some plans offer tax-free death benefits to your heirs if your LTC benefits are not fully used or needed. They may return your premiums if you change your mind down the road. Premiums can be locked in from the initial purchase date, with a guarantee that they will never increase. Those who already hold a legacy policy with a large cash value may be able to roll that value over, tax free, into a new hybrid policy.

For those who can afford to pay premiums in a lump sum in advance, LTC coverage could amount to as much as twice the face value of the policy. Compare that with simply setting money aside for LTC expenses at a rate of five percent interest. It could take as long as thirty years to save for what this policy offered on its face.

There is a wide range of coverage, depending on the policies. They may cover different services, delivered at-home, in a facility, or both. The monthly or daily benefits can vary. Some policies require an elimination period (a delay between the time a doctor qualifies you for coverage, and actual payment); some do not. Some provide inflation protection. Some provide adjustable rates, depending on how much the insured might need LTC as against the death benefit.

Always also remember that the carrier must have the long-term financial stability to pay claims, and to remain in business, for decades to come.

To sort through all these intricacies, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners has issued a free and comprehensive Shopper’s Guide to LTC Insurance. It provides especially helpful shopping tips at pp. 31-36. Find the publication here https://www.naic.org/documents/prod_serv_consumer_ltc_lp.pdf

We can create a long-term care plan that incorporates a hybrid plan like this with an irrevocable trust that will protect all of your bank accounts and real property (like your home) in the event you need long term care. If you are interested in protecting your savings and your home, we would welcome the opportunity to discuss a plan that works for you. Please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

HELP! This Probate Is Taking Forever!

After a loved one dies, their money and property must be distributed to the right people, either according to their will or the state’s default distribution scheme (found in its “intestacy” statute). While most people want the settlement process to be done ASAP, probate can take between 18 and 24 months. Yes, you heard that right. The time delays create unnecessary stress, especially for families who need access to those accounts or property.

5 Reasons Probate Takes So Long

There are many reasons why the probate process takes so long. Here are five of the most common:

  1. Paperwork.

    Managing probate-required paperwork can be a monumental undertaking with structured timelines and court-imposed deadlines.

  2. Complexity.

    Estates with numerous or complicated accounts or property simply take longer to probate, as there are more items to be accounted for and valued.

  3. Probate court caseload.

    Most probate courts are dealing with high caseloads and limited staff.

  4. Challenges to the will.

    Heirs, beneficiaries, and those who thought they’d be beneficiaries, can object to and challenge the will’s instructions and legal requirements. While state law dictates the length of the time period during which they must object, will challenges can add years to the probate process. Some of the most common challenges include assertions that the will maker was:- Lacking testamentary capacity (i.e., lacking the legal or mental ability to make a will)

    – Delusional

    – Subject to undue influence (wrongful pressure to do something they didn’t want to do)

    – A victim of fraud

  5. Creditor Notification.

    The deceased person’s creditors must be notified of the deceased person’s passing and the probating of their estate so they have time to submit any legal claims for debts. This time period also varies from state to state, but it is generally four to nine months.

The bottom line is that, while most state probate laws are designed to keep the process moving along in a timely manner, that’s more of a plan than a reality.

Simply Put, Avoiding Probate with a Trust Is Better

Simply put, had the deceased person created a trust to hold their accounts and property, the long, complicated probate process could have been avoided. By creating and funding a trust, those accounts and property are no longer viewed as being owned by the deceased person and are not subject to the supervision of the court. Their distribution is controlled by the instructions left in the trust agreement. Administering a trust instead of a probate is usually quicker – meaning that beneficiaries receive assets more quickly, costs are reduced, and stress levels are kept to a minimum.

Take Action Now

First, if you need help settling a probate estate, we can help you move the process along and remove some of the burden so you can move on with your life. Second, we can help you make sure you never burden your loved ones the way you’ve been burdened. How? We’ll show you how to avoid probate with a trust. Give us a call today. As an added convenience to our clients, we are able to meet via video conferencing if you prefer.

Planning for When an Ill Spouse Leaves Home

Much as you want to and hard as you try, you just can’t take care of your ill spouse at home anymore. At this emotionally difficult time, the last thing you need is the stress of not knowing where to find the money to pay for the steep costs of institutional care.

Advance planning is a must. As soon as you can – ideally at least five years before serious health problems arise – take advantage of many elder attorneys’ willingness to talk with you for free, or for a modest initial-consultation charge.

We are here to help you navigate the complexities of the Medicaid program. This is a governmental fund available to meet the staggering expense of institutional care, but the ins and outs of the qualification rules are complicated and mistakes can be costly. Here’s a thumbnail to help you grasp what your attorney will be telling you.

 

Resources” and “Income”: The Difference

Medicaid assistance is available only to those who own very little. The Medicaid rules determine what “owning very little” actually means. A person can only own around $2,000.00 of what Medicaid calls “resources.”

Resources include cash in the bank, CDs, the cash value of insurance policies, investments, and the like. Income includes regular paychecks, Social Security, or payments received for child support. Both income and resources are potentially “counted” by Medicaid as “available.” To qualify for assistance, available income and resources must be carefully spent or transferred away.

 

Exempt Resources

Some resources are not counted or, in other words, are exempt. This means the Medicaid rules exclude them from adding up to the $2,000.00 limit. These resources are sheltered from Medicaid’s requirement that the applicant must spend down almost everything before assistance will be available.

A married couple’s residence, one motor vehicle, household goods and furnishings, medical equipment, jewelry, and other items are exempt. This means that an ill spouse can still qualify for Medicaid assistance even if the couple owns those resources. There’s no need to give them away or sell them to qualify.

The distinction between “exempt” and “non-exempt” assets can be tricky, though, and should first be assessed by a qualified elder-law attorney before any action is taken.

 

What the Well Spouse Can Keep

The Medicaid rules permit a spouse who remains at home to keep a portion of the couple’s resources. This is known as the “community spouse resource allowance” (CSRA). Of course you’d like to see the well spouse keep as much as possible within the CSRA limits. Planning can arrange the distribution of resources to make that happen.

Here is where the difference matters between “resources” and “income.” Medicaid distinguishes between the well spouse’s income and the couple’s resources. Resources over the CSRA limit must be spent down or carefully transferred. As to income, the well spouse can keep it up to a certain level, so he or she will have enough money to live on. The Medicaid rules call this the “monthly maintenance needs allowance” (MMNA).

For example, if the well spouse gets Social Security benefits of only $500.00 a month, but her allowed MMNA is as high as $2,000.00, it makes sense to convert some of the couple’s resources into raising her income up to the MMNA limit. This is not a simple matter, though, and should be done only on the advice of a qualified elder-law attorney.

Planning for Medicaid eligibility can be complicated. Please consult an elder-law attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you plan, the more strategies are available to protect your resources. An initial consultation with a qualified elder-law attorney, for free or for a modest amount, could save you many thousands of dollars.

Don’t delay. Please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

 

Modernizing Medicare

Many seniors who are financially stable and choosing to age in place already have a “smart” home employing the sorts of technology that can prolong their independent living circumstances. Family caregivers are freer to move about their daily lives knowing they can check remotely on their loved one and that the loved one has a set of controls at their disposal to monitor their environment. Some of these seniors are also tracked directly by medical staff that can assess if any of the patient’s medical vital signs are outside of a safe range. While corporate competition for senior market dollars has made many of these devices within reasonable price points, Medicare is attempting to catch up to the market demand for the use of these products and include them as refundable medical expenses. Private enterprise and public policy are not in synch.

Medicare’s modest step forward in the proposed approval for funding and use of technology, specifically remote monitors for at home Medicare recipients to track blood pressure and other vital signs, is on a slow trajectory. There are two important limitations associated with the proposals. The first is a constraint on the devices eligible for use and the second is there is no provision for Medicare recipients who do not use home health agencies. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will also not directly reimburse home care companies but allow for the expense to be considered when setting overall reimbursement rates. In other words, the bureaucratic acceptance and ability to merge even the most basic of medical technology tools into the mainstream is cumbersome at best.

While it has not been proven that these monitoring devices improve health outcomes (and may explain why CMS is moving so cautiously), the advocates for the technology make the case that the tools allow the elderly, frailer individuals the ability to continue living at home rather than moving to an assisted living or nursing facility. There is less financial strain on CMS outlays when older adults age in place. Currently, the CMS proposal only allows for technology that monitors and collects physiological data which typically includes blood pressure, glucose monitoring, and electrocardiogram (ECG). All of this data is digitally stored and can be transmitted by the patient and the caregiver. However, this sort of monitoring is currently happening, and what CMS has come up with is merely a payment change and exclusion of those Medicare recipients not associated with home health agencies. Not exactly a significant foray into at home medical technology. Technology can streamline and make effective the remote monitoring process however it becomes less effective when government policy continues to add layers of bureaucracy and exclusions that make the adaptation to remote monitoring technologies at home needlessly complicated.

What happens to the latest tech tools that can detect how well a senior is moving around their own home, forgotten to turn off the stove, or a senior who is unable to swallow a pill or answer a phone? For the many chronically ill seniors who are regularly monitored and have stabilized prescription medical approaches for their condition, it might be far more advantageous to approve of technologies that can prevent a house fire or data analytics that can be predictive about the increased risk of an unintended fall. Mobility trackers and smart home devices are as important as at home biometric devices for the senior who is choosing to age in place.

Given that technology will have to be the offset for the growing shortage of personal care workers and their associated expense, remote monitoring will become pervasive in the care of the elderly with chronic conditions. However if the senior does not have financial stability, and many of them do not, how will the costs for these home technologies be addressed?

What are the benefits of the changes CMS has made to the Home Health Prospective Payment System (PPS)? The belief is as put forward by Seema Verma, “The redesign of the home health payment system encourages value over volume and removes incentives to provide unnecessary care.” What this means is if a Medicare recipient uses a home health agency then the remote monitoring tools become an allowable cost on the Medicare report form. The expectation is to use home health agencies as the vehicle to foster the adoption of emerging technologies which is all in support of advancing the Administration’s MyHealthEData initiative. These benefits are doubtful to keep pace with market-driven forces for innovation in the field of at home biomedical devices because healthcare is taking up an increasing share of the US economy. The CMS Office of the Actuary projects that by the year 2026 one in every five dollars in America will be spent on healthcare.

Another benefit CMS has put into place is the release of the Blue Button 2.0 application programming interface (API). Blue Button is a digital platform that is now the standard for Medicare beneficiaries to receive claims data in a digital format so it can then be securely and privately used in applications (apps) developed by third parties. This platform standardization by CMS is encouraging software developers to leverage its digital architectural design for claims data from Blue Button 2.0.

CMS has taken some cautious steps to ensure that certain Medicare beneficiaries will be able to take advantage of and be reimbursed for the advances in the technologies for home health care. The US healthcare spending is forecast for continued growth reaching over $1 trillion by 2026. There is not a lot of time to get this right. Large government agencies move far more slowly than agile, market-driven technology companies. Thankfully technology developers and CMS are both starting to find ways to blend effectively and efficiently for the benefit of Medicare recipients, but it is a long road ahead. Please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

Estate Planning with Your Parents

It is essential that as your parents’ age, you have conversations with them about their finances. To broach the topic, you might bring up current events like the coronavirus pandemic, its effect on economic conditions, and how it relates to the security of their financial future. The conversation should come from a calming place of love and concern. Speak to them respectfully about how the coronavirus pandemic has you thinking about the importance of their planning and preparedness.

Once you begin the conversation, move away from the pandemic as your introductory technique as you do not want to create a sense of panic or fear.  Instead, delve into legal and financial reviews, processes, and parameters. US News reports that your parents’ financial analysis should include essential legal documents, financial accounts, and associated vital contacts, long-term care decisions, and claims. If you live apart, lay the groundwork to help them with their finances remotely.

It is generally most comfortable to begin your conversation with legal documents that hopefully your parents already have in place like a will, trust, living will, and a health care proxy. If your parents do not have these documents, they must retain an attorney and create the ones that best suit their needs. If you need to help your parents manage their finances, you must have a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney allows you to make financial decisions for your parents in the event they become incapacitated. This is an essential estate planning document. In the absence of a durable power of attorney, the courts become involved, and solving health or financial issues becomes a lengthy, expensive process over which you have little control. If your parents already have their legal documents drawn up, find out where they keep them and review them carefully. If any documents need to be amended, suggest that your parents meet with an attorney to make the relevant changes. Be sure their documents reflect the state law in which they reside.

Once you have assessed your parents’ legal documents, it is time for some financial discovery. Even if your parents do not currently need help, having an overview of their finances and a durable power of attorney to help them in the future is crucial to their aging success. Begin by listing all of their accounts, account numbers, usernames, and passwords as well as employee contact names. Include insurance policies, the agent’s name, and where the policy is, as well as how they pay their premiums. Include any online medical accounts or list their doctors’ names and office numbers. The idea is to create a comprehensive list of all of these accounts. Gather your parents’ Medicare and Social Security numbers and their drivers’ license numbers. Know where they keep this information so that in the future you will know where to look. Also, learn about any online bill paying or automated, re-occurring activity. These usually include monthly bills like electricity, natural gas, water, etc. but may also include quarterly payments or annual subscriptions.

If your parents still live in their long-time home, discuss if it is viable that they live out their days there, or if downsizing to a retirement community or moving closer to where you live appeals to them. Help them come to a decision that is best for their set of circumstances.  If they do not have long-term care insurance or some other mechanism to aid them in times of need, talk about the topic, and try to come up with a solution. If they do have long-term care, be sure you have a copy of the policy, contact information, and the name of the insurer and agent. Review the requirements for receiving benefits so you can help them when they need to file a claim as most policies have a waiting period of 30 to 90 days before benefits begin. Know what to expect.

Digital technology has made oversight of parents and their finances easier than ever as long as you have a durable power of attorney and access to their account information. If they do not yet pay their bills online, or use auto payment, help them set up this option for their monthly bills. Remind them you will provide oversight to ensure proper billing. Offer to help them with their annual tax filings. Your help relieves some pressure on them and provides you with information about the goings-on in your parents’ accounts. For your parents’ peace of mind, you can establish a monthly video chat to let them know their bill payments are progressing normally. Your involvement will allow you to identify any abnormalities in account activity, which may indicate scam attempts.

Having these financial and planning conversations with your parents today can help them live more securely and with less stress as they age. Most parents will try to avoid these discussions with their children because they may not be adequately prepared for what can lie ahead. Conversations that focus on proper legal documents and gathering financial account information will give you the data you need to help protect your parents.

We would be happy to help you and your parents with critical planning documents. We are open and taking new clients, and we hope to talk with you soon about your particular needs.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

Caring for Yourself with the Right Estate Planning Prescription

To all front-line and “essential” workers: Thank you for all of your hard work—day in and day out (and often evenings, nights, and weekends). You tirelessly give of yourself to care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Whether you are caring for them in a hospital, therapy room, or patient’s home, you are there to protect and help the patient gain a better tomorrow.

However, one important question remains. What have you done to prepare for your own care? Working together, we can craft the best possible estate planning prescription that will protect you today, tomorrow, and well into the future using the best legal tools available.

A revocable living trust is an excellent way to manage and protect your money and property. Contrary to what some may think, you don’t have to have lots of money and property to benefit from a trust. The two major players involved in a trust are the trustee and the beneficiary. During your lifetime, as long as you are able and choose to do so, you can act as the trustee and can control all money and property in the trust. However, when you are managing the money and property, you are now doing so as the trustee and not as the individual owner. In addition to serving as the initial trustee, you are also the beneficiary. This means that although you have transferred your money and property into the trust, you are still the one receiving the benefits of that money and property.

In the event you are unable to act (i.e., you become incapacitated) or pass away, the individual you have named as your successor trustee will step in and manage the money and property according to the instructions you have included in the written trust agreement. Even if you are still alive when the successor takes over, it will be the successor trustee’s responsibility to manage and use the money and property for your benefit. Then, upon your passing, the successor trustee is required to hold or distribute the money and property in the trust according to the instructions in the trust instrument. This transition of trusteeship between you and your successor trustee happens without court involvement, making it quick and private.

A financial power of attorney allows the trusted person you choose (your “agent”) to handle your financial matters on your behalf. The agent can handle a wide variety of transactions from signing checks to opening a bank account to filing your taxes, depending upon the authority you grant that individual in the power of attorney. This can be a helpful tool if you are incapacitated, bedridden, or just unavailable to engage in the necessary transaction. The beauty of this document is that you can customize it so that you will have the assistance you need, when you need it, based on your individual situation and wishes.

As you are probably well aware, a medical power of attorney allows you to name a trusted individual to communicate your medical wishes in the event you are unable to do so. It is important that you choose someone you trust because you will not be able to oversee your agent’s decisions. It is equally important that you convey your wishes to this individual clearly. This can be accomplished through the use of a living will or advanced directive.

Additionally, you can execute a HIPAA authorization in the event you would like other trusted individuals to have access to your medical information (i.e., to get a status update on your condition or obtain test results for you) but do not want them to have the ability to make decisions. In a stressful situation, the dissemination of reliable information straight from the healthcare provider can be a way to ease tensions and allow everyone to process what is going on with a level head.

We understand that you are busy and your time is valuable. To better assist our clients, we are available to meet by telephone or video conference. We may also be able to use remote procedures for the signing and executing of your documents, eliminating the need for you to come into our office at all. Your estate planning should not have to wait until you have a day off. Give us a call so we can get started caring for you right away.

Conducting Your Estate Plan Online

As you have probably heard by now, keeping physical distance between us is crucial to stop this virus. Call or email us to find out how we can help you complete your estate plan without taking a single step outside your safe home.

Formerly, most states required that important legal documents must be signed in person. During the course of this epidemic, then, we have been doing all we can to follow that law, to get your documents signed in person and still protect your health.

Recently, however, an increasing number of governors have issued emergency orders to change that law. Ask us whether our state is one of those that has suspended the requirements for in-person signing. If so, we can offer you the entire estate-planning process, start to finish, all completed while you stay safe at home and connected with us by internet instead.

Please consider that especially under these circumstances, it would be most wise to get your plan done. You will have made sure that trusted people can step in for you, to take care of bills and health-care decisions if you become unable. At the same time, you will have taken care of your heirs, to protect your family’s legacy as smoothly as possible when the time comes.

How quickly things change. It may be that now we can do it all by internet, to get you to the peace of mind that doesn’t change. You will know that a trusted person can pick up the reins for you, so you or your loved ones get the care you need, and you will know that your estate legacy will be preserved and protected.

If you have questions or need guidance in your planning or planning for a loved one, please do not hesitate to contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

Instructions During COVID-19

In times like these, it is especially important to be prepared for the worst, like if you or a loved one gets sick and cannot make decisions on their own. Banks, insurance companies, and medical providers will not listen to what another person says about what you need, not without up-to-date legal documents.

But how are you, or someone you know or love, supposed to get those documents, and still do your bit to keep physical distance so we can stop this virus and get back to easier times?

Internet is the answer. Almost everything you need from us can be delivered remotely without your setting foot outside, as long as you have a good phone or internet connection. From the safety and comfort of your home, you can get just about all the way to the goal:  peace of mind from knowing that your family or another trusted person can pick up the reins for you, so you or your loved ones get the care you need.

On the other hand, if you prefer to, or must, consult us in person, be reassured that we are taking extraordinary care to protect all our health by adhering strictly to Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

In these challenging times, we all must do all we can to strengthen our resilience, optimism, good planning, and teamwork. Here is how to safeguard your and our health while you access uninterrupted legal services.

  1. We invite you to take advantage of internet capability. Of course, we would love to see you in person, but, these days, let’s keep in close contact outside of physical presence. If you have a good phone or internet connection, we can meet together via phone or video conference. You can get and send documents via email. We can stay connected “virtually” so that in most cases, you can get everything up to (but not yet including) signing, without budging from home.
  2. Once we begin seeing clients in our office, we will take every precaution CDC recommends. We all are conscientious about strict infection-control protocols, physical distance, and frequent sanitizing of high-touch surfaces. For now, you will be welcomed with a warm smile instead of the usual handshake or hug!

However, your help is essential. Please, if you aren’t feeling well or are showing symptoms, reschedule your appointment or ask about alternative means of meeting.

  1. For now, our clients and friends in hospitals or nursing homes can’t count on us to visit as we used to. However, facilities usually have people on hand who can witness and notarize signings. They also have internet connectivity. So, you or your loved ones’ documents might still get created, updated, and signed in most cases, even though we can’t physically be together. These days, given the current realities, it is more important than ever that especially vulnerable people get current documents in place.

Now is the time to make sure you and yours have the proper documents in place, so your trusted person can handle legal, financial, and health-care decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. Take the few easy steps to get prepared.  We can help prepare these important documents and guide you through the decision-making process. Please contact our office by calling us at (405) 241-5994.

May we all stay safe and well.

Americans of All Ages Are Creating Wills

There has been an explosion in the numbers of Americans rushing to make their will online. Understandably, the coronavirus pandemic has created the scramble to set up wills and end-of-life-directives. However, online do it yourself (DIY) wills are often deemed invalid as they do not comply with all of the legal requirements of your state. According to Caring.com, the prevalence of will and estate planning has been on the decline since 2017 but this trend is quickly reversing itself with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic. So, who needs a will? Ask yourself if you care who gets your property or money if you die? If you have minor children, do you care who will act as their legal guardian? The answer is anyone married, anyone with children or anyone with assets needs a properly executed will. Wills are governed by state law. Your will should reflect your wishes in the language and format required by the state in which you live for it to be valid.

Many law offices are turning to teleconference with their clients to address social distancing protocols while still providing legal services such as writing a will. Businesses like Zoom are experiencing a quadrupling of daily users. Part of this significant increase includes hosting secure attorney/client meetings for will preparations. The importance of an attorney guiding you through the process of creating a will cannot be understated as they understand the nuances of how things need to be written. Once your will is complete, it must be correctly notarized as mistakes made in the will-signing process can potentially invalidate your will.  Your attorney will guide you through the signing process, and could involve signing during a video conference.

Beyond the creation of a will, many Americans are increasingly concerned about their powers of attorneys, health care surrogates, living wills, and end of life directives. These “life documents,” as they are active while you are alive, are equally as important as your will. Named executors, successors, beneficiaries, power of attorneys should have several back-up representatives as the mortality rate due to the coronavirus remains unknown.

According to research in a recent New York Times report, health care workers are more likely to contract COVID 19 than the average person. During this pandemic, many doctors and other medical professionals are rushing to have their wills drawn up. In addition to doctors, anyone on the front lines in the fight against COVID 19, from hospital custodians to nurses to EMS responders, should either make a will or review and possibly update their existing one. However, the truth is no matter what your profession or likelihood of contracting this virus, you should have a properly executed will during this time of considerable uncertainty.

There are few things you can act on during the COVID 19 pandemic that can bring you assurance and a sense of relief. The legal creation of your will and life-directives is an action you can take that protects you and your family. We can help. Please contact our office by giving us a call at (405) 241-5994.

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