The COVID-19 pandemic that we expected to last for maybe a month in February, 2020 or so is now coming up on a one year anniversary and it is about time we started to ask ourselves “what are your plans after the pandemic?”
For the skeptics I would point out that multiple vaccines have been developed and are, although slowly, finding their way into the waiting arms of Tier 1 recipients. Granted there have been multiple disappointments along the way. Also granted, the severely troubling events of the last week seriously bring into question our stability as a nation if not our sanity overall. However, if we live through the next few weeks we will have new leadership to consider and hopefully a new outlook. The loss of life, the pandemonium have been unbelievable.
Despite all this I ask “what are your plans after the pandemic?” There is a reason for the question. Only by planning, only by establishing structure will we experience the calming effect of reason. If you do not believe me, think back to the last time you confronted a major crisis. My guess is you first said to yourself “First, I will do this. Then I will do something else.” And so on. I call it “Next Step Planning,” that is answering the question “what do I do next?” You might not have realized it at the time but this is developing a plan. So congratulations, and I ask again “what are your plans?” If you have not considered this you obviously are not alone. If it seems too impossible to imagine because the circumstances we are confronting are unimaginable, I would point out that many among us have already begun to plan and implemented plans and have made changes – some of them life altering changes.
Many of us have moved, either downsizing from a house to an apartment or to a senior community or in with family. They had houses to sell or new houses to buy. They developed plans with family to build additions and “in-law suites” or, conversely, adult children moved in. Many hard decisions had to be made and hopefully they were preceded by deliberate planning. These changes could signal either a step up or a perceived step down. Even a step down could reflect a cost savings – something that could be reviewed with a Certified Financial Planner. A step up could result in concerns “Can I afford this?” A Realtor can help locating alternative housing. An Elder Law Attorney can consider all this along with questions of health, goals, budgeting, review of contracts for Continuing Care Retirement Communities, estate planning and other plans. Are they realistic? Do they provide the best quality of life? Do they fit with other goals of a client?
I ask these questions because, as a Certified Elder Law Attorney it has seemed to me that people have sometimes taken a too limited a view of what people in our position can do and should be doing. When I first became involved in Elder Law well over 15 years ago, my thought was to expand what people could handle by coming to us, recognizing that “one step shopping” can be a model to handle decision making. Elder law is a holistic approach considering all the related issues that clients might confront. It is not that one person or one firm knows everything. That would be too optimistic. It is that by connecting with one place, which can be an Elder Law Attorney’s office, even a small firm, maybe even especially a small firm, that connects with professionals in other fields like real estate, financial planning, and concierge services, could enable clients to consider their problems as a whole and not limit them to a simple single question. It is not just “should I change my agent under a financial power of attorney” or “what do I do to get into a senior community” or “how do I handle asset protection planning?” It can be that but also much much more.
I wrote a column some time ago saying there really is no end to the twists and turns that life can take. That is still true. There are problems and there are at least tentative solutions. So, what are your plans?
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.