27 Apr COVID-19 AND ESTATE PLANNING: NOW MORE THAN EVER, YOU NEED TO PLAN
We don’t need to be reminded how disruptive the COVID-19 era has been. Schools, businesses, and public facilities are closed. Some are working from home, others are working in high-risk environments, and an alarming number are out of work. Trips to visit family members, even if feasible, are problematic. The courthouses throughout the state are closed except for emergencies, and in-person meetings with trusted advisors are mostly on-hold for now.
As you shelter-at-home, how can an estate planning attorney best assist in developing and implementing an effective estate plan?
Now, more than ever, estate planning is essential. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased focus on estate planning. Many people who deferred thinking about an estate plan for years now realize their mortality and want to make sure that their estate is in order for their family.
For example, a revocable living trust can help loved ones avoid probate. Along with an Advance Health Care Directive and Durable Power of Attorney, it can also assist a client who is incapacitated. With properly drafted and executed documents, trusted individuals will be able to make important financial and medical decisions on a client’s behalf without the need for a court proceeding.
A well-done estate plan provides peace-of-mind and can save significant time and money in the long run. However, estate planning is usually a very personal experience. Clients often prefer to meet their estate planning attorney in person because they are talking about extremely personal issues: family, finances, life, death, and a future when they may be physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially vulnerable.
You can effectively consult with an estate planning attorney remotely. The current shut-down may have changed some of the attorney-client dynamics, but clients and attorneys are adjusting. Even if you don’t have an existing relationship with an estate planning attorney, a phone conversation or video conference is a great way to get started. At Sullivan, Workman & Dee, LLP the initial conference is always free.
Whether you need a plan implemented as soon as possible, or just want an attorney to review an existing plan, we are here to help.
To minimize in-person interaction during the COVID-19 outbreak, we can do almost everything remotely by using phone, text, fax, email, and/or video conference to consult, receive and review documents, provide drafts, and finalize plans.
Estate planning documents may need a notary or witness, but don’t worry. Estate planning documents may require notarization and/or witnesses, depending on the documents. Clients can either wait to sign those documents until they feel comfortable with an in-person meeting, or be a bit creative. For example, some signing meetings are taking place on the client’s front porch, with a properly masked attorney and mobile notary at least six feet away. Clients will need to sign the notary book and put their finger prints in the book, but they are provided hand sanitizer/alcohol wipes before and after touching the notary book and using the stamp pad.
Some changes to estate plans can wait. If you simply want confirmation that your estate plan is adequate for short term, we can also help. Changes that do not need to be made now can wait until the pandemic eases.
Closed courthouses can complicate matters. The COVID-19 situation has dramatically affected pending probate and estate court proceedings. Most courts are closed now except for emergency matters (e.g., petition for appointment of a temporary conservator or guardian). The capacity to process paperwork differs from court to court. This can cause significant delays in getting executors and administrators appointed by a judge. For example, the Orange County Superior Court currently will not accept a new Petition for Probate for filing unless there is a true emergency (e.g., a pending foreclosure). In most courts, Petitions for Final Distribution are also being continued. This means that family members are often stuck in limbo, and beneficiaries may not receive proceeds from an estate at a time when they may need them the most.
Sullivan, Workman & Dee, LLP is here to help. Whether you need an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare a new plan, review an existing plan, or navigate the court system to obtain relief as soon as possible, the attorneys at Sullivan, Workman & Dee, LLP are here for you.
We hope you and your families are staying healthy. As we confront the current health situation regarding the coronavirus, Sullivan Workman & Dee, LLP will remain open and ready to respond to your estate planning questions or concerns. For immediate assistance, please contact Theresa Pranata (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kristen Robison (email@example.com) or call (626) 656-8700 at your convenience.