On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave name to the disease-causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. The coronavirus disease 2019 shortly after became known by its abbreviation, CO for corona, VI for virus, D for disease, and 19 for the year of the outbreak; COVID-19. This virus will likely become a milder illness in time because of vaccinations, pandemic controls, and naturally occurring herd immunities. Still, COVID-19 will probably be with us humans forever, endemic in large swaths of the world in varying degrees of intensity.
According to National Geographic, COVID-19 may eventually transition into a “mild childhood illness,” joining the four endemic human coronaviruses which contribute to the common cold. Three determining factors, human immunity retention (vaccine or otherwise), virus evolution, and prevalence of older population immunity, will set the pace of post-pandemic transition. If COVID-19 responds similarly to related diseases, it will take sixty to seventy percent of the human population to become immune to end the pandemic phase. We have entered a new year with no magic to make the coronavirus go away.
Many people have lost loved ones, colleagues, and acquaintances. Our daily lives have forever been disrupted. If we can, we work from home, and if we have them, we oversee our children’s school day. We debate statistics of those lost, observe new surges, use terms new to many, like efficacy, and wait for COVID-19 to go away. We put into practice government messaging by limiting our social interactions, wearing masks, and practicing good hand hygiene. There is no getting around a pandemic; it looms large. Collectively everyone is participating in vanquishing this unseen foe. Individually it is a good time to ask yourself some questions about your legacy and personal legal preparedness.
What is the status of your will? When did you last review it? Have you moved? Does your will reflect the laws of the state in which you live? Is your accounting for any inheritance tax law changes at the state or federal level? Remember that wills are subject to state law even though there are federal inheritance laws. A valid will must be per the laws of the state where it is signed. It is essential to have an up to date will.
If you become ill or otherwise incapacitated, it is prudent to have a living will or advance care directives that describes how you envision your medical care. Should you become sick with COVID-19 or any other potentially fatal disease, do you have strong feelings about being on a ventilator, and for what purposes? Ventilators are needed if you undergo anesthesia for surgery and perhaps for a short while post-op. However, people on ventilators trying to recover from COVID-19 have high mortality rates and poor survival outcomes. Under what conditions would you want to accept this type of medical intervention?
If you have children or own any assets, having a will or setting up trusts for descendants’ care and dispersion of inheritable belongings is crucial. Now is a good time to carefully read through your will and advance care directives as currently written. It is best not to rely on memory; find those physical documents and read them. As estate planning attorneys we can update your legal documents via the telephone or virtual meetings if you prefer not to meet face to face.
If you do not have these documents currently, it is a good time to start the process of speaking to an attorney about how these documents should be drafted. These documents define your life and can provide stability for those you love when you are no longer capable of doing so. In times of great uncertainty, as in the coronavirus pandemic, preparedness is within your control.
We help families with their estate planning needs. If you would like to discuss your personal situation, we would be happy to meet with you at your convenience.
— By Dara M. Hensel, Estate Planning Paralegal at Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates, P.C.