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This Too Shall Pass: How to Keep the Novel Coronavirus in Historical Perspective (Essay and WTOB Radio Interview)

(Medical Illustration of an AIDS Virus)

Viruses, as a group, are 1.5 billion years old, predating humans (200,000 years old) by approximately 1,499,800,000 years.  Humans live intertwined with viruses in a complex web of life.  As one looks at tinier and tinier pieces, the building blocks that make up unbelievably small viruses (RNA, DNA, proteins) are the same building blocks that make up humans.

This relationship, historically, has not always been bad for humans.  James Shapiro, a University of Chicago microbiologist notes that “we wouldn’t be here without them.”[i]  Researchers speculate that as a part of the evolution of mammals more than 100 million years ago, a viral infection in a primitive mammal uploaded a gene for the protein syncytin that helped the mammalian placenta to evolve.[ii]

Viruses use the protein syncytin to fuse cells together, so that viruses may move from one host cell to the next.  In mammals, that very same protein is the actual substance that fuses the placental cells (connected to the fetus through the umbilical cord) with the mother’s uterine cells, allowing vital nutrients to be transmitted through those tissues, and the human fetus to develop and grow.[iii]  Without that long ago viral infection in a mammalian ancestor, no human child may have ever blinked their eyes open on a warm summer morning, to greet a bright new day.

Modern humans like to believe that we are in control of most things, but the COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly reminded us that we are still subject to the laws of nature.  Although the illness, deaths, and disruption created by COVID-19 may seem unprecedented to modern humans right now, in biological time, periodic waves of both viral and bacterial infections have ebbed and flowed, much like the tides, for as long as humans have existed here on this earth.

But humans have made great progress in preventing, treating, or curing disease, and should continue to do so.  When my grandmother Marie Oliver Vance Zipp was born in Texas in 1911, her life expectancy was then 53 years.  Her later husband, my grandfather Dr. Raymond Zipp, treated childhood and adult diseases like polio, pertussis (whooping cough), and tuberculosis in the small South Texas town of Edna, Texas, where my mother Valerie grew up, and where I later graduated from high school.  These diseases had no effective preventative vaccine, or treatment back then.

A female child now born in  2017 (latest figures available) expects to live for 81 years, 28 years longer than in my grandmother’s time.  And the diseases above that my grandfather battled at close range, are now under control in this country.  Scientific research has brought us so many more years of life in a relatively short time.

In the early 1980s, my first biology professor at the University of Texas at Austin died of the human retrovirus AIDS while in his 40s, when I was still an undergraduate biology student.  Not unlike our 1960s space program that eventually brought us to the moon, the focused time, attention, and money brought to bear against that AIDS crisis eventually yielded great benefits.  If my first biology professor had contracted AIDS now, the antiretroviral therapies gleaned from that global research response could have allowed him to live a significantly longer productive life.

With the focused financial and scientific attention now being directed towards COVID-19, we can better respond to this new crisis also, hopefully reducing transmission rates while COVID-19 eventually runs its course.  Research advances are already coming.  Just this week, my old molecular biology professor at the University of Texas, Dr. Matthew Winkler, announced that one of the biotech companies he founded, Asuragen, has developed molecular diagnostics technology which can now be used to develop more sensitive and accurate COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests.[iv]

Humans have big brains, with much more capacity than we need for just survival.  We have plenty of room to hold worry, and stress, within our extra cognitive spaces, but that can be counterproductive to our health — worry and stress actually depress our immune systems,[v] making us more vulnerable to infections like COVID-19.

The more normal we can make life while it is not normal, the more we can remember things that make us laugh, and the more we can go back to our own personal ways to exercise and reduce stress, the healthier we will be.  And when we can feel a little better, the more we will realize that this too shall pass.

REFERENCES

[i] Viviane Richter, What Came First, Cells or Viruses, Cosmos (October 19, 2015), https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/what-came-first-cells-or-viruses

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] News Release, Asuragen Develops Armored RNA Quant® SARS-CoV-2 Control (March 16, 2020), https://asuragen.com/news-list/asuragen-develops-armored-rna-quant-sars-cov-2-control/

[v] Stress Weakens the Immune System, American Psychological Association (February 23, 2006), https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune

 

Why You Should Not Wait Too Long to Set Up an Asset Protection Trust in North Carolina (WTOB Radio Interview)

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder and special needs law, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker as he explains how an asset protection trust should be set up early in North Carolina, to better create a family “nest egg” of assets free from future medical creditors, Medicaid estate recovery, or other future financial problems.

For more information on creating a North Carolina asset protection trust, please see attorney Vance Parker’s article:

Protecting Your Assets With the “StepAPT” Asset Protection Trust

Vance talks with WTOB Radio in Winston-Salem, NC every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

5 Inexpensive Ways to Reduce Accident Liability Risks on Your North Carolina Rural Property (WTOB Radio Interview)

 

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker as he explains how it does not take much money to better protect your rural North Carolina real property from accident liability risks.

For a published, written version of this article, please also see:

5 Inexpensive Ways for Rural North Carolina Landowners to Lower Their Accident Liability Risks

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

Why You May Need an Elder Law Financial Power of Attorney in North Carolina (WTOB Radio Interview Attached)

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker as he explains how the new North Carolina Uniform Power of Attorney Act (enacted December 2018) may have made your existing financial power of attorney document deficient (or obsolete) for many later elder law, Medicaid planning, or asset protection needs.

Now-deficient powers of attorney, such as the once popular North Carolina Statutory Short Form Power of Attorney that many people still use today, can cause great problems when a person is later diagnosed with a dementia or becomes mentally impaired so that use of the financial power of attorney is needed to make critical financial, legal, Medicaid planning, or asset protection decisions.  Such decisions may later be required in order to protect the senior’s home and other assets from Medicaid estate recovery, or from medical creditors.  When the senior or disabled person’s financial power of attorney is deficient, key decisions that the agent must make to financially or legally protect the senior may now need to be first approved by the county Clerk of Superior Court, which can be an expensive, time consuming, and unpredictable process.

Adding an inexpensive financial power of attorney document containing detailed elder law powers (an Elder Law Power of Attorney) to one’s estate documents in the first place, while a person is still healthy to sign such documents, can prevent all of the problems caused by the new NC Power of Attorney Act.  With an Elder Law Power of Attorney, the senior or disabled person’s agent will have all of the tools (if needed later) to legally protect the senior’s assets, so that critical Medicaid planning or asset protection decisions can be made quickly to save the senior’s home and assets for the senior, spouse, and family, without having to go to the county Clerk of Superior Court for permission first.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

Don’t Scam an FBI Man

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how telephone scammers can hit anyone, even a retired FBI and CIA director and his wife.  Vance concludes with basic tips for senior telephone and internet safety.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

 

Caring for a Senior with a Caregiver Agreement

 

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how a caregiver agreement allows a senior to transfer assets to a family member who is caring for him or her, in a way allowed by Medicaid.  Without a caregiver agreement, if a senior pays a family member for taking care of him or her and Medicaid is later needed to assist with long term care expenses, Medicaid will often penalize such transfers as a gifts.   A significant gift transfer penalty or penalties can jeopardize the senior’s ability to receive government help for long term care.

Using a caregiver agreement represents the best way to document senior payments made to a family caregivers in return for care.  Such agreements are recognized by Medicaid if drafted and used properly,

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

10 Ways to Protect Your Assets Before Marriage

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how to protect your assets before marriage.

Adults of all ages fall in love, and hope to get married.  As adults get older, they may accumulate more and more separate property.  In my practice, I have worked with clients in their 20s through their 80s who desire to tie the knot.  But marriage remains a legal institution (in addition to a religious and emotional institution), thus it is important for couples to understand their separate and marital property rights.

Because love may sometimes be blind, and U.S. divorce rates remain high, here are my 10 Ways to Protect Your Assets Before Marriage.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

Using a Medicaid Qualified Promissory Note to Shelter Assets from Medicaid

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about using a Medicaid qualified promissory note to shelter assets from Medicaid.  Particularly useful with couples, an elder lawyer may transfer an ill spouse’s assets to the well spouse, then use a Medicaid qualified promissory note (authorized under federal law) to loan those assets to someone else, in order to reduce the ill spouse’s estate and qualify him or her for Medicaid.  The loan may then be repaid in full, with interest, to the well spouse, so that the ill spouse’s funds stay within the family, and are not lost.

The Medicaid qualified promissory note technique may be used to quickly qualify a senior or special needs person for Medicaid long term care benefits.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

 

How to Protect a Car From Estate Creditors

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about using joint with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) ownership to protect your car from estate creditors after you pass away.  If you pass away leaving large medical bills, or had to use Medicaid to help pay long-term care expenses, your car may need to be sold in probate following your death to pay estate creditors.

Owning your car jointly with another person, and adding the right of survivorship to the car title, helps make sure that your car will pass directly to the surviving car owner out of probate, and free of estate creditors.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

How a Life Estate Works to Protect Real Estate Against High Medical Costs

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about using a life estate deed to protect your home or other real property against future high healthcare bills or other unknown creditor costs.    A life estate provides the life tenant with an enforceable legal right to remain in his or her home for the rest of their life, in a way that is protected against attachment by any future medical creditors, or other creditors.  An heir or loved one can serve as the real property remainder interest holder–which can insure that the loved one inherits the real property free of creditor problems.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

How to Take Care of a Special Needs Child Using a Third-Party Special Needs Trust

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how forming a third-party special needs trust may be an excellent way to save protected funds for your child (or other important beneficiary in your life.)  A third-party  trust may protect against future creditors of both the parent and child, does not disrupt your child’s Medicaid, SSI, or other public benefits, does not have a government payback provision, and can benefit other family members if your child passes away.  The trust may benefit your child right away, during your life, and may also provide a protected “nest egg” of assets for your child if you pass away.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

Which Assets are Protected Against Probate Creditors in North Carolina?

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about why your assets may be subject to probate creditors after you pass away in North Carolina, and how probate creditors may keep assets that you will to your loved ones from benefiting them.  Vance then discusses a number of different types of assets that you can use to avoid probate creditors.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

How to Decide on Adult Guardianship for a Special Needs Child

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, guardianship and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how to make planning decisions for your special needs child before he or she becomes an adult at age 18.  If appropriate, and your child will not be competent to make his or her own financial, legal, health care, and housing decisions as an adult, guardianship proceedings may be established for your child in North Carolina starting at your child’s age of 17 1/2, Full general guardianship, and alternatives to full general guardianship (for children who may be able to live as adults on their own) including powers of attorney, and partial guardianship (guardianship of the estate only) are discussed.  Because it is important to allow a child as much freedom as possible to promote continued intellectual development, and to support a sense of independence and self-worth, guardianship or alternatives should be carefully-considered family decisions, which can be supported through advice from a special needs and guardianship attorney.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder law, and estate planning topics.

Pet Trusts

pet

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about why it may make sense to protect your pet with a pet trust.  Because animal shelters are facing a crisis of unwanted pets from incapacitated seniors or seniors who have passed away, pet trusts provide a legally enforceable way to protect your pets should something happen to you.  Pet trusts are protected under North Carolina law, and may be easily added to a standard will or revocable trust document.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

 

Using a Medicaid Annuity to Shelter Assets From Medicaid: WTOB Radio Interview With Attorney Vance Parker

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about using a Medicaid Compliant Annuity (protected by federal law), to shelter assets when applying for Medicaid.   When applying for Medicaid coverage of nursing home, assisted living, or home care expenses, it may be necessary to make assets non-countable in order to meet Medicaid’s strict applicant asset restrictions.

The Medicaid Compliant Annuity (MCA) technique may be particularly useful for making assets non-countable within retirement accounts.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

Special Needs Trusts (SNTs) and Adult Guardianship

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about how to use a special needs trust to keep an inheritance or other financial award from disrupting a senior or person’s Medicaid or disability benefits.  Vance further explains why it is critical to make sure that any assets “willed” to a spouse diagnosed with dementia, or any assets left for a child, be distributed through a trust for the disabled beneficiary.

Vance additionally discusses when adult guardianship of a special needs individual may be appropriate.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and law, and estate planning topics.

What Is Incapacity Planning?

WTOB FM/AM Radio in Winston-Salem, NC interviews elder, special needs, and estate planning attorney Vance Parker about the most effective estate planning for a senior (or younger person) diagnosed with a dementia or disabling illness. Click below to play the attached audio file and listen to the interview.

Vance talks with WTOB Radio every Tuesday at 4:38 pm, educating the public about elder and special needs law, and estate planning topics.

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