You may be wondering if it is too late to make or change your estate plan with the onset of the coronavirus. The good news is that it is never too late to create new documents until you are either dead or mentally unable to understand what you are signing. The bad news is that doing so could interrupt your self-isolation and expose you to various other people on your way to and at an estate planning appointment. For this reason, at Burzynski Elder Law we have put in place teleconferencing ability that allows one of our attorneys to meet with you virtually face-to-face using your home computer or smart phone. You still have the private, one-on-one meeting without having to risk exposure.
After your design meeting we will prepare and send drafts electronically: you can print them out at home or review them on your home computer. Any changes can be dealt with by an email or phone call from you to our office. We are still operating and expect to continue to do so although our office is closed to in-person meetings to protect our vulnerable client base and our employees and minimize transmission risks. We also have plans in place for virtual signing of your documents which would require you to travel to our office but allow contact-less execution of your documents. As you can tell, we have given this some thought and will go to great lengths to keep you and our staff safe!
From a legal perspective, this is the time to review your last will and testament or living trust. Do they reflect your current wishes if you were to die next week? Here are some things to consider in this regard:
Does your Estate Plan include a personal representative or successor trust be able to serve?
Is the named personal representative or successor trustee still the best person to serve?
Is the beneficiary responsible? Should they receive their bequest outright or in a trust for their benefit?
Would you want to protect your heir’s inheritance from ex-spouses or creditors?
If you have a living trust, are your assets transferred to your trust? Most of your assets should be titled to your trust or controlled by a “pour-over” will to ease administration after your death.
Your Estate Plan should also provide for someone to act for you if you are unable to act for yourself. Do you have a durable power of attorney and advance directive for health care?
Are the beneficiary designations on your IRA or 401k correct? What about life insurance policies?
Remember that Florida does not recognize holographic (handwritten) wills unless they comply with certain formalities. It is also a bad idea to mark through or cross out certain sections on your old documents. A court trying to construe your intent will not be clear about what you meant to do.
If you die without a will, the State of Florida has a law to determine where your assets go. This is called intestacy. It may or may not be the way you want your assets to go.
Make sure your family knows where your documents are kept.
Time will always be important in preparing before you get sick. Even after coronavirus is behind us, there can always be new diseases arise that threaten our elders. That is why we plan to make permanent our ability to have virtual design meeting and contact-less signings. Hopefully in the future those can go back to being options instead of the only safe way to practice. Certainly we will all die sometime…better to die with a plan than without.