Tag Archives: living wills

Serious Pandemic Estate Planning

25 Nov

My husband and I recently updated our estate plan.  We have done this several times to keep things updated to the age of our children and our situation.  The last time we did it was when our youngest child turned 21.  He is 30 now, and our daughter is married.  It was definitely time.

Because we are now in our mid 60s and there is a COVID pandemic, it made sense to make sure we had all our financial arrangements organized, and our living wills and power of attorneys updated. Several people I know did not have plans, and upon their death, complications occurred. I like to be organized!

Our attorney told us that we were not the only ones thinking about estate planning.  Actually, many people are worried and so are doing what we did, updating or starting a new will or trust. (See article below.)

I did not want to leave my children with a mess.  My father and mother were in the process of updating their wills, when my Mom died suddenly.   My father never completed the changes he had planned because then he became ill and died.  I did not want my children to have the long-term situation we had as we navigated through some issues. 

Our biggest crisis came because of a donation to charity.  My parents were not specific.  And this caused a battle between the charity and the State of New Jersey.  The charity wanted the money used as they wanted it to be used.  The State of New Jersey wanted the money to be used only in New Jersey.  We really had no control over this mess as the state and the non- profit battled it out.  Just to let you know, New Jersey won.

Thus, we will not be leaving any money to a non-profit in our estate planning. We set up a separate Donor Advised Fund years ago, our donations will continue to go through that fund, we will make decisions while we live.  I do not want to leave it to lawyers to determine what we wanted. Everything we put in our estate plans is specific!

Almost all of the planning was done through email and phone calls.  This actually was not unusual nor due to COVID. Each time we updated our documents, we used phone calls and email! It took several months to get all the documents completed. Then we had to sign and date all the documents: trust, power of attorneys for health and finance, and the very important living wills that outlined how we wanted our health care to be completed as we neared death.  We are strong proponents of no feeding tubes and to have a DNR order, Do not resuscitate, as we near death.  For this we had to go to the lawyer’s office for the witnesses and notary to do their jobs. 

Last week we completed this final task to get our estates updated and ready.  Not that I am planning to get sick and die, but I am a bit OCD, and I want everything in order.

However, I was not prepared for what our lawyer told us after everything was signed and the notary and witnesses left the room.

To be honest, we have been using the same estate attorney for 25 years.  When we started working with her, she was the newest attorney in this company’s estate department, she now chairs it.  I can honestly say, she has NEVER said this to us before.  We were in our mid 50s last time.

What did she say that startled me? That caused this emotional outburst?

She basically said the following:  When the event of first death occurs, the surviving spouse needs to contact us and provide us with the original signed copies of the will and estate plans of the deceased spouse.  We will then need to re-evaluate the estate of the surviving spouse. 

These are not her exact words, but they are her meaning. One of us would die, and we needed to be prepared.  WOW!

There were a few other instructions, like taking a picture of our living wills and keeping them on our phones in case we ever had to go to an emergency room!  It is actually a good idea.  I already have photos of our medicines on my phone.  But now I will have our living wills on my phone as well.

After we left the office, I turned to my husband and commented on all these instructions. He, of course, was pragmatic.  We had to know.  And I guess we do. 

I turned 65 at the start of this year and did not feel old. But in March I found out that the pandemic is worse for older people of my age. And now I am aware that I could die. And I need to have everything ready for an emergency room visit and for the death of the first spouse.  Sigh.  Being organized is a good thing, however sometimes it is a bit depressing.

No matter the tiny bit of ambivalent feelings, I am glad that we did some serious pandemic estate planning.

https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/07/26/covid-19-has-increased-demand-for-estate-planning-heres-how-to-do-it-right/?slreturn=20201024104622