At MendenFreiman, the health and safety of our clients and staff are our most important priority. We also want you to know that during these unprecedented times, we are here for you. Below are several important updates regarding estate planning matters during the COVID-19 crisis.
We Are Here for You. We remain committed to meeting all of your needs. While our physical offices are currently closed, our estate planning team is working remotely and maintaining normal business hours. We are available via our normal phone numbers or by email and encourage you to reach out to us about any matter that may require our attention.
Preparation of Estate Planning Documents. We recognize the sense of urgency that COVID-19 brings to the estate planning process. Having key documents such as a Will, Health Care Directive, and Powers of Attorney in place and up to date can bring important peace of mind. We are actively preparing and updating a variety of estate planning documents, including Wills, Trusts, Health Care Directives, Powers of Attorney, and the like, for our clients. While in-person planning and review meetings are not currently possible, we can meet via telephone and video conferencing, communicate by email, and take any other steps to ensure that our services continue, uninterrupted.
Execution of Estate Planning Documents. Signing and executing estate planning documents are challenging right now, given the restrictions on gatherings of any kind. Normally, proper execution of Powers of Attorney requires either two witnesses or a notary, and the execution of a Health Care Directive requires two witnesses who are unrelated to the principal and who are not the principal’s health care provider. Similarly, the law requires that a Will be executed by having the testator sign his or her Will in the physical presence of two witnesses. The witnesses must then also sign the testator’s will in the physical presence of both the testator and of each other. It’s best to have these two witnesses not be related to the testator and not be beneficiaries under the will.
Last week, Governor Kemp issued an order that allows this notarization and witnessing to be performed via the use of real-time audio-video communication technology. However, the order also requires the documents to be signed by all parties (signer, witnesses, and notary) on the same calendar day, and it is unclear if this includes counterparts, or if the same physical document has to be signed by all parties on the same day. Due to this ambiguity, the temporary nature of the order, and the plethora of objections and challenges that it could create, our firm is only using this option as a last resort in emergency situations.
In light of the above, our goal is to work with you to ensure the proper execution of your estate planning documents. Our firm is still conducting in-person signing conferences on a case-by-case basis in a manner that follows CDC guidelines related to social distancing and other mitigation techniques. The signing conferences are being held in our parking garage, and we are taking every precaution by sanitizing the area, providing hand-sanitizer and wipes to each individual, and wearing gloves and masks while handling the documents.
Make Your Documents Available to Your Loved Ones. Finally, it is critically important that copies of your Health Care Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive are readily accessible to your loved ones and caregivers. If you have an electronic medical record with your primary care provider, these documents should be added to it, if possible. The rest of your estate planning documents (such as your Will and financial Power of Attorney) should be accessible to your chosen fiduciaries. If you cannot locate copies of your estate planning documents and you need them, please reach out to us.
You can reach the MendenFreiman estate planning team here. If you are not yet a client but are interested in information regarding our estate planning services, submit a request through our contact form and someone from our team will reach out to you shortly.