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COVID 19: Planning for the Unexpected

The four documents you should have to be protected

By Susan Suben

COVID-19 is wrecking havoc with the way we live and how we relate to one another.

Millions are still unemployed or furloughed, businesses are still on the brink of collapse, our health is still threatened and our finances are strained. It is a very vulnerable time. But something good is coming out of it. I believe the pandemic is heightening our awareness and motivation to plan for the unexpected.

No longer can you ignore the fact that at any given time, for any given reason, something catastrophic can happen to your family. However, there are precautionary measures for what can come along.

Today, COVID-19 has created an urgency to stop procrastinating and get your affairs in order.

According to “Estate Planning in the Age of Covid” by Sara Rabi, you should have four legal documents:

• Power of attorney (POA)

• Health care proxy,

• Last will and

• Testament and living trust.

Without them, your family is unprepared.

A POA gives someone the authority to act for another person in specified legal or financial matters such as paying bills, writing checks, selling assets or gathering health and insurance information. It allows you to deal with the personal needs of a loved one when they can’t manage on their own.

A health care proxy appoints an agent to legally make health care decisions on an individual’s behalf if he or she is incapacitated. In the case of COVID-19, many individuals are on ventilators and unable to articulate their wishes. A health care proxy makes wishes known.

A last will and testament expresses a person’s directives on how their property is to be distributed and managed upon their death. However, a will often needs to go through probate, a process to prove the validity of a will for certain assets. Probate can take months and be very expensive. To avoid probate you should also have a living trust.

A living trust designates someone to be your trustee in order to manage all your assets so that they can be passed on to the intended beneficiary. It is an extension of your will.

I’d like to add one more — a living will. It details a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment in circumstances, such as COVID-19, where the person is no longer able to express informed consent such as “do not resuscitate.”

These documents serve a very important purpose during a pandemic like COVID-19 or any tragic event when an individual may not be able to communicate their preferences or manage their affairs. Simply put, you need them in order to navigate through systems and barriers.

COVID-19 is causing volatility in the stock market and raising anxiety levels. There is an increased fear of running out of money in retirement and knowing how to pay for a long-term care (LTC) illness.

Mass Mutual conducted a chronic care survey in November 2019 to determine consumer awareness and understanding of chronic care and LTC probability and funding solutions. The results are insightful and show that the issue of LTC is a concern for older as well as younger individuals. I believe the findings are more relevant today due to the virus. Even though many individuals have recovered from COVID-19, they may still suffer residual medical conditions requiring care that their families are struggling to deal with.

Mass Mutual sampled approximately 1,250 people ranging in age from 30 to 65 with household incomes ranging from $50K to $150K.

The findings include:

• Individuals are concerned about needing chronic care after age 65 and the fear of running out of money shows they are not prepared for it.

• Solutions to managing chronic care are not well understood, although the interest in learning more about it is high, especially among those younger surveyed.

• Individuals are uncertain about the costs of in-home care but strongly prefer to stay in their home.

What all this means is that any time is the right time to investigate LTC planning options. All three findings have validity. Statistically, 70% of individuals over the age of 65 will require LTC and 42% of individuals below 65 require some form of LTC. Many individuals do run out of money and have to apply for Medicaid within months. LTC insurance claims history shows most claims start at home and the average cost of an aide is $30 per hour.

There are numerous solutions to manage the cost of LTC. They include standalone LTC insurance, life insurance with LTC components (hybrids), life insurance with accelerated death benefits, and life insurance with chronic illness riders.

You have to take the time to learn which solution is right for you.

Disruptive times, like during COVID-19, call for adaptation and planning. Unlike the virus, you do have some control over the unexpected.

Susan Suben, MS, CSA, is president of Long Term Care Associates, Inc. and Elder Care Planning. She is a consultant for Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. She can be reached at 800-422-2655 or by email at