By: Julianne Mosher, Long Island Business News
It might seem morbid to some, but people are preparing for the worst – just in case. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York in mid-March, law firms began to see an increase in clients inquiring about estate planning.
To alleviate anxiety and plan for an untimely death, people treated the virus as a true wakeup call — even though they would usually associate estate planning with the elderly, COVID-19 forced them to get moving.
Melissa Negrin-Wiener, a partner at Cona Elder Law, said her firm is seeing heightened awareness from young people. “The trends we’re seeing in this world of COVID is younger people paying attention to their healthcare proxies,” she said. “Usually healthcare proxies and estate planning are equated with being older or getting sick.”
While the elderly are more susceptible to contracting the virus due to age and vulnerability, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 20% of unexpected deaths occurred among adults aged 20-64 years. Twenty percent of those hospitalized were aged 20-44 years. To date, Nassau County has had 2,200 COVID-related deaths, with Suffolk reaching 2,010.
“For people in their 20s, 30s, 40s who were out there living their lives,” she said, “This virus has been a huge wakeup call.” Often pushed aside by both younger and older individuals are key documents such as power of attorney, healthcare proxy, living will and last will and testament – especially for those with children under the age of 18.
Legal experts said that it’s critical for those who suddenly become ill and can’t manage their affairs to have the appropriate people named in legal documents who can step into their shoes and act on their behalf. “Work with somebody who has a holistic approach on what to do next,” Negrin-Wiener said. “Important more now than ever to get everything in line and prepare.”
While coronavirus has caused stress, anxiety and loss amongst thousands of people, she added that it has made people think twice. “We’ll be talking about this for a while,” she said. “I hope that people continue thinking about their estate planning.”