Spiro J. Verras Blog

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Ensuring the Most Vulnerable Have an Estate Plan

How can I help my loved one in a nursing home make an estate plan?

The coronavirus pandemic has sent a message to all of us that our futures are uncertain. Most at-risk for serious illness or death from the virus remains the elderly. People aged 65 or older have a heightened risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. Perhaps the most vulnerable are Florida’s nursing home and assisted living residents. Nursing home residents are typically already in compromised health due to physical or mental illnesses. COVID-19 has demonstrated its ability to quickly infect and kill large groups of people in nursing homes, like it did at the Kirkland facility in Washington state. In light of their at-risk status, it is now all the more important for the most vulnerable among us to make an estate plan.

Nursing Homes Operating Under Visitor Restrictions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance to nursing homes on measures they should take to protect their vulnerable residents. Such measures include restricting visitors except in end-of-life situations, restricting all volunteers, canceling group activities, and actively screening residents with symptoms for COVID-19. Florida issued an emergency order adopting these guidelines and prohibiting visitation except for end-of-life situations or the purpose of health care or legal services. State leaders chose to provide exemptions for legal services, no doubt recognizing the critical need for attorneys to be able to help residents make an estate plan.

Making End-of-Life Decisions

Only one in four Americans have signed advance directives spelling out their wishes should they become critically ill and unable to make decisions on their own, per the latest Pew Research Center data. With an advance directive, your elderly loved one can decide in advance what life-saving measures they want taken when they are extremely ill and incapacitated. They can also decide on an individual to make healthcare decisions on their behalf with a healthcare power of attorney. These documents can save family members from the stress and heartache of having to make crucial medical decisions during uncertain times.

Avoiding Leaving Your Assets Subject to the State

Of additional critical importance for vulnerable individuals is the creation of a will. If your loved one in nursing home care dies without a will, his or her assets will be distributed per state law. This could lead to assets going to individuals whom your loved one would not have desired and also add cost and time to the probate process. A will eliminates any uncertainty and allows your loved one to make reasoned decisions as to whom will receive which of their treasured assets.

The coronavirus has complicated estate planning with social distancing guidelines and closures of some buildings. Our Tampa Bay elder law attorneys at Verras Law are still here for you, offering phone, email, and video conferencing, as well as in-person urgent estate plan signings. Call us today for assistance creating your estate plan or helping your elderly relative to draft their comprehensive estate plan now.

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