As of the date of writing this column, July 19, 2020, the U.S. has 3,698,161 confirmed Covid19 cases and 139,659 deaths, according to the CDC. We don’t know if illness or death is just around the corner for us. And yet, according to a 2019 survey by Caring.com, 57 percent of U.S. adults do not currently have a will or living trust. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, we thought that older people were more at risk for Covid-19 infection. But now, especially in states where Covid-19 cases have been rising in June and July, the median age has been dropping. 20- to 40-year-olds are now the highest age bracket to become infected. The percentage of millennials who have a will or living trust is exceptionally low. Only 1 in 5 of 18-34-year-olds have an estate plan in place.
At the start of this Covid19 pandemic, online companies that help you create your own will, saw an explosion in new customers. Boston-based Gentreo saw a 143% week-over-week increase in people filling out wills, according to the company, while San Diego’s Trust & Will saw a 50% uptick in customers.
We may have saved money for old age and hope that the people we love will make sound decisions on our behalf. But most of us have not fully prepared. Our family and friends should know our end-of-life wishes, and we should have the necessary paperwork to back-up those wishes.
End of life planning can seem morose, depressing, and maybe scary. We don’t want to think about our mortality. We procrastinate, we don’t believe we have enough assets to make it worthwhile, we believe it is expensive to create a will, or we just don’t know where to start. However, we need to have more conversations about our end of life preferences before it’s too late.
Wise people will have prepared a living will, also called an advanced directive, regarding their end of life wishes rather than leaving it to the doctors or family members to guess. If we are wise, we will also have declared a power of attorney for who will make decisions for us in the case of an emergency. For help with a living will, I recommend a tool called “Five Wishes” that can be accessed through http://www.agingwithdignity.org. And, I strongly recommend you read Understanding Healthcare Decisions at the End of Life at nia.nih.gov. This guide includes questions to ask your doctor and medical staff, practical advice on issues you may face, family involvement, working with medical staff, and more.
We will certainly die. Perhaps of Covid19, and perhaps not. Creating a will can provide some peace of mind in all this COVID chaos.