Client Alert: COVID-19 Estate Planning Update
With the COVID-19 pandemic currently ravaging New York State and the nation, there has never been a more critical time to review and update your estate planning documents. Yet, until now, the social distancing rules currently in place have made it very difficult, if not impossible, for clients to execute some of the most important estate planning documents (like wills) because applicable law required witnesses to be physically present when these documents were signed. However, just this past Tuesday, April 7, 2020, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.14, which allows for remote witnessing of these crucial estate planning documents via videoconferencing technology. In a previous Executive Order, Governor Cuomo allowed a Notary Public to take an acknowledgment or oath remotely over videoconferencing software as well.
With these Executive Orders now in place, our firm can assist you with creating or updating any estate planning documents you or your loved ones may need while you remain in the comfort and safety of your own home and observe all social distancing guidelines. Our firm provides videoconferencing technology which allows us to remotely meet with you and assist you with executing your documents via a computer, smartphone or tablet.
At a minimum, we recommend that you should have the following estate planning documents in place:
- Health Care Proxy. This document appoints a Health Care Agent, and Successor Health Care Agent, who can make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them yourself.
- Living Will. This provides specific instructions to your Health Care Agent regarding end-of-life medical decisions.
- Power of Attorney. This document appoints an Agent who can manage your financial affairs on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself.
- Last Will and Testament. A Will allows you (not the state’s default statutes) to determine how and to whom your estate assets will be distributed, and to select who will administer your estate and carry out your wishes. A Will also may provide for the guardianship of any minor children you may have at your passing.
- Trusts. Various types of trusts can also be implemented, in addition to or in lieu of a Will, to be a part of an estate plan and these instruments can offer numerous benefits, including estate tax savings, asset protection, avoidance of probate, maintenance of privacy, and the protection of disabled loved ones.
We are happy to assist you or your loved ones with reviewing and updating your estate planning documents while many other aspects of our lives are on pause. All of our firm’s Trusts and Estates attorneys are available to assist you during these difficult times. If you have any questions about your existing estate plan or putting one into place, please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to assist you. These unprecedented times are also presenting other unique estate planning opportunities, which we will bring to you soon in future client updates. In the meantime, we hope you and your loved ones stay safe and well.