Phillips Nizer LLP | Sophisticated Legal Service | Estate Planning and COVID-19  <em >(click here to read more)</em >
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Estate Planning and COVID-19  (click here to read more)

In these critical weeks, you may have questions or wish to change or develop your estate plan and documents.  We are working remotely and remain available to serve you, whether you are an existing client or wish to become a new client.  This event has caused uncertainty over many procedural issues and brings new changes every day, but we actively monitor these changes and adapt as needed.

Remote Capabilities: 
All of us, attorneys and staff, have remote capabilities which assist in our ability to provide services. We can meet with you remotely by telephone or internet.  Internet options include Zoom, Skype and FaceTime.

Wills, trusts and healthcare proxies can be signed in your home with two independent witnesses – and we can assist by being connected to you by phone or internet while signing the forms. Notaries are not absolutely required for any of these items in New York.
Notaries are still required for powers of attorney, and we may be able to notarize remotely, though current procedures require a fair amount of steps on both ends. Governor Cuomo continues to issue executive orders which aim to assist in accomplishing legal tasks and we check daily for new developments in remote notarization and related issues.
What to do:
Important documents you should check:
  • Healthcare proxy and HIPAA waiver, which may or may not contain advance directives (living will) about care you do or don’t want if your condition becomes terminal and you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself. The proxy appoints one person, and perhaps a successor, who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. While having an original in hand is optimal, your medical providers may also be willing to accept a copy of the signed original. 
  • Durable Power of Attorney.  You, as principal, appoint one or more persons as agents to act for you in legal and financial matters, especially if you cannot do so, but also at other times if desired.  Most large banks and brokers now require that their own power of attorney form also be executed, and without that special form, it may be very difficult to get your bank to accept the New York statutory form. Your bank or broker may have the form available online to print and execute with a notary. Your agent will need the original document in hand to offer to any person or business to transact business before they will allow to agent to act on behalf of the principal.  It is important to understand that the powers granted terminate at the death of the principal.
We retain special limited access to our office files and vaults.  If you require originals of the above documents, please contact us and we will endeavor to send them to you within a reasonable amount of time. In many cases, but not all, copies can be provided to you quickly via email.

Take a moment to check on beneficiary designations.  If you’ve had life changes over the last few years, such as a new spouse, divorce or new children, make certain all of your designations match your current circumstances. 
  • Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts - Review your 401K, IRA and deferred compensation beneficiary designations.
  • Beneficiary designations on life insurance - Review your life insurance policies, including group life policies you hold via employment.  
  • Beneficiary designations for transfer-on-death accounts -  Review bank and brokerage accounts where you have made a beneficiary designation.

Planning Opportunities:
For those who have been considering certain types of lifetime trusts or gift transfers, new lower interest rates and a drop in market values offer opportunities to make a variety of transfers and intra-family loans that may not have been as attractive before.   

Please contact any of us to discuss issues old or new.  We will always be available to discuss your planning needs and prepare new documents.  

The Phillips Nizer LLP Estate and Trust Team