COVID-19 continues to be a significant disruption in our lives and continues to wreak havoc upon our economy. Current unemployment numbers are approaching 22%. To put this in perspective, look at both recent history and more ancient history:
- In February of this year, we were in the midst of one of the strongest economies and greatest bull markets of all time. Unemployment was at a record low of 3.5%.
- Today, it is estimated that unemployment has risen to as much as 22%. If you compare this to the highest rate in modern history, you would have to go back to the Great Depression in 1933 when the unemployment rate was 24.9%.
Remember, the economic fallout from COVID-19 has happened over a period of fewer than two months! Families’ finances have been impacted in ways no one could have dreamed. If the family member in charge of the finances were to become seriously infected by COVID-19, it could be critical to have a back-up plan for managing the family finances. Here’s what you should do right now:
- Have a Power of Attorney drawn and signed. A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint another person as your “attorney-in-fact,” which gives that person the authority to act on your behalf in legal matters should you not have the capacity to do so…such as signing checks and paying bills. Your family attorney can assist you with this or consider using an Internet-based service such as LegalZoom.com.
- Sign an Advance Directive for Healthcare. The Advance Directive for Healthcare outlines your wishes regarding end-of-life care…it speaks for you when you cannot speak for yourself. Typically, it is divided into two parts:
- Living Will. In this section, you’ll provide detailed instructions regarding the level of care should you become incompetent and facing a potential end-of-life scenario. For example, assuming you’re in a vegetative state, would you want to remain on a life-supporting respirator? Would you want to remain on a feeding tube? Would you want hydration or pain medicines administered or withheld? For some people, these are tough decisions, but I’d suggest that it’s better that you make them than leaving it up to someone else…and that someone might be a physician or a family member
- Healthcare Proxy. Here, you appoint the person you would like to speak on your behalf regarding healthcare decisions. Or, you may state that you are requesting your Living Will instructions be strictly followed, and you explicitly indicate you do not want someone to speak on your behalf. In my experience, most people choose to have a Living Will and a Healthcare Proxy whereby the Living Will expresses your desire and instructions. Still, your Healthcare Proxy can intervene, using their good judgment, if there are extenuating circumstances.
- Have a family meeting. Once you have the above documents in place, meet with the person or persons listed in your documents and tell them what they need to know: where these documents are located; what bills need paying, when; basics about the family finances such as life insurance; the contact information for key professionals such as the family attorney, accountant, financial advisor, and banker.
Make sure your adult children have an Advance Healthcare Directive! When your child becomes a ‘legal adult’, age nineteen in many states, HIPPA privacy laws dictate that medical professionals cannot provide any information without the patient’s express written permission (healthcare proxy). You don’t want to find yourself in the position of your college-age child being incapacitated, and you are unable to get medical information or make medical decisions on his or her behalf.
While I prefer these documents be executed with the aid of an attorney, you can download a form for your particular state and complete on your own. You’ll need to pay close attention to the instructions for completing the document, and these instructions will vary by state. For a state-by-state listing of downloadable/printable forms, visit the Resource Center at www.WelchGroup.com; click on LINKS, then Living Will-State-by-State.
Follow The Welch Group every Tuesday morning on WBRC Fox 6 for the Money Tuesday segment.
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Stats: 1.1 million COVID-19 cases; 64,000 deaths in U.S.
- Make sure all adults have a Power of Attorney
- Make sure all adults have an Advance Healthcare Directive
- Living Will
- Healthcare Proxy
- Communicate with key family members about finances & healthcare wishes
Stewart H. Welch, III, CFP, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including J.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaire; and 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by The Welch Group, LLC (“Welch”), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this article will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful. More information about The Welch Group and important Disclosures can be found on our website. Consult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.