We are in a season of financial and health care unrest. COVID-19 preparedness has resulted in self-isolation and social distancing practices. Many are designing a “new normal” and looking for things to do while staying at home. The less fortunate are entering unchartered waters of unexpected rapid decline in health and even death because of this pandemic affecting those of all ages, from the otherwise healthy to those who were already physically compromised.
When I have spoken or written about “Starting the Conversation” in the past, it was usually aimed toward families having “the talk” about the natural progression of aging, perhaps a decrease in mental acuity or physical ability to handle one’s own finances and do the necessary activities of daily living. At times like these, it seems to be even more important and relevant to ensure wishes of your loved ones are honored.
Personal memories in the form of keepsakes.
Take the time that you have now to talk. It might start off as simply as discussing great grandmother’s Noritake china set, stories around when she received it as a wedding gift, memories of family holiday dinners where she brought it out of the corner cupboard and set the table with it, linen napkins and salt cellars at each place setting. Or the time when someone dropped a piece of the china while washing and how it was glued back together. How is this heirloom going to be passed down? It might be the appropriate occasion to start making a list or going around the house and putting post-its on each item with names, or better yet, writing a personal note to the loved one that is receiving the item with the history of it. I have many cherished notes from my Nana that start with “your Pappy and I went to housekeeping with this.”
What do you want to happen when you pass away?
Then, if you feel appropriate, you could ease into your other personal wishes about end of life decisions. Let your loved ones know what you want to happen when you pass away. Who will be your executor to follow your Will? Who do you want to be in charge of money or property left to a beneficiary with a spending problem or special needs? Do you desire to be cremated or buried? If cremated, what will happen with your ashes afterward? Will they be spread at your favorite vacation spot, buried in the family cemetery lots or made into some type of remembrance?
Family health history
Discuss the family health history and make a collective family health history in a shared document saved to the cloud. This would be a huge benefit for those who might have to step in and make decisions for you and would be a good resource for those family members in the future who may encounter an unusual health issue, like COVID-19.
Powers of Attorney
Now is the time to talk about whether everyone in the household, from age 18 upward, has Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney. While Pennsylvania has Act 169 that delineates who will make health care decisions for you if you cannot, that may not be the person or persons who would be the best suited. Who is going to act and make those decisions during lifetime if you are unable to do so? Make your intentions known sooner rather than later. Pennsylvania does not have a law that allows others to handle financial matters like paying bills, transferring property, forwarding mail or applying for benefits. If you do not have a Financial Power of Attorney and become incapacitated, your loved ones will have to institute a Guardianship proceeding in your home county.
Get it in writing and make it binding
We are here and available to help you put your desires into binding legal documents, so that if you are affected by this crisis, or another, you have peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out by the person(s) or entity that you trust.
Looking to start the conversation? Visit the Resources & Tools page on our website at www.paelderlaw.com. There are many guides that can help you to do so.