Estate Planning and the Coronavirus

We hope this article finds you and your family well and safe.

During the pandemic, it is important to keep socially distant. We all want to protect ourselves and each other. However, having an estate plan in place is important too, especially if you have a job that requires you to interact closely with people (for example, medical personnel, police officers and firefighters) or if you have the beginnings of dementia.

Even if the documents are not going to be signed immediately, one can start the process through telephone and video conferences. Elder law and estate planning attorneys are also having documents signed by various means.

Governor Cuomo signed several executive orders that allow documents to be notarized and witnessed by video. There are specific procedures that are required, such as ensuring the identity of the person who is signing the document, direct interaction between the notary or witness and the person signing the document, an affirmative statement that the person signing the document is in New York and a legible copy of the document being transmitted electronically to the notary or witness on the same day the document is signed.  The problem, of course, is that not everyone has the technology necessary to have a video conference and/or to transmit the signed document electronically to the notary or witness.

In the cases where a video conference is not possible, it still may be possible to keep everyone safe and sign the documents in person. In my office, where we believe we should get the documents signed as soon as possible (for example, where we are worried that an individual’s dementia may progress to where they are incapable of signing the documents) we have procedures in place to get the documents signed. The documents are mailed to the client for her review.  A telephone conference is had to review the documents.  Then, an appointment is made to sign the documents.  All parties wear masks and gloves, social distancing is maintained, and the person signs the documents with her own pen.  In other words, we balance keeping everyone safe while making sure that the person has the necessary documents to deal with life’s uncertainties.

If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to call our office at 516-222-1773.