The coronavirus pandemic has directed our attention to a variety of issues such as hand washing and social distancing, but with many elderly individuals not leaving their residences it is important that we are making sure they receive the care they need.
If you know someone who is elderly and living alone, you might want to check to see if they need assistance. If they are near and dear to you, it’s also a good time to consider their financial situation and make sure their “house is in order.”
How Can You Help?
Keep in mind that many elderly individuals pay bills, deposit checks and attend to other financial matters without the benefit of a computer or the internet. Many still mail/post or even hand deliver documents. Those tasks become more challenging for an elderly individual who cannot leave his or her residence. Some of these issues can be addressed by taking care of these tasks online. If you are part of the support system for an elderly individual who takes care of business the old-fashioned way, now would be a good time to help them learn about online banking, how to ‘download’ and ‘upload’ documents, and make sure they have access to email and the internet.
For those who may not be able to handle this type of information, this would be an excellent time to instate a financial power of attorney. Which is an essential estate planning document for elderly clients who need assistance in attending to financial matters. By that instrument the individual gives an “agent” the authority to pay bills, pay insurance premiums, handle investments, deal with tax return preparation and address numerous other financial matters. While most powers of attorney are legally effective as soon as they are signed, a bank or broker which is shown a copy of a customer’s financial power of attorney will not automatically honor it. The process of having the power of attorney “activated” at a bank or broker can take days or even weeks, so don’t wait. Make sure that the power of attorney is “on record” at their bank/broker so that the agent can handle these matters promptly should the need arise.
If the elderly person in mind is related/close to you, now would be a VERY good time to make sure they have all their important documents in place. If you are unclear about what those “important documents” are, click HERE.
If these documents are out of date (not addressed in the last 5 years) or missing, now is the time to update or find them!
If you have a document copy of an advance directive for healthcare, a healthcare proxy, living will or similar document, make sure that the individual’s current physician has been added to the their medical record or to the hospital where the would most likely be admitted. That is especially important because those documents typically include a HIPAA waiver and without that the health-care provider, they will not communicate with the healthcare proxy or representative named in these documents.
Along different estate planning lines, the pandemic has caused a dramatic drop in the equity markets. Because the power of gift-giving lies in the appreciation on the gifted assets after the date of the gift, depressed values create a unique opportunity for gift-giving. There are numerous gift-giving techniques.
Some are as simple as $15,000 annual exclusion cash gifts and some are as complex as the funding of an “intentionally defective grantor trust” followed by the sale of a closely held business interest to the trust. With the market as low as it is, even a cash gift of $15,000 (or multiple cash gifts) if well-invested can shield the post-gift appreciation from federal and state estate tax in the estate of the donor. The same concept applies to most other estate planning techniques.
In other words, these are difficult and tumultuous times. Which is what an elder law, estate planning attorney is best at.
Here at Smith Alling, PS, in Tacoma, attorney Bob Michaels has the experience and knowledge to help you through a challenging time. If you are uncomfortable about coming into our office, we can have a conversation by phone or online. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.
We are here to help!