Estate, Trusts and Elder Law

Trust & Estates

Posted on: April 9, 2020

The COVID 19 pandemic continues to have a widespread impact regardless of age, sex, race, social class and the like. Consequently, mortality is at the forefront of the minds of many who, in an attempt to have his or her affairs in order, are now seeking to address estate planning.  The continuing requirement that most estate planning documents be witnessed or notarized makes estate planning today more complicated in light of COVID 19.

Generally, estate planning is the creation of legal documents that detail the transferring of one’s assets at death and includes a Last Will and Testament (the “Will”), a Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and a Health Care Proxy. A Power of Attorney enables a designated agent to act on behalf of a principal to perform specified legal functions. A Health Care Proxy permits a designated agent to make health care decisions for the principal. A Living Will details one’s wishes regarding the use of life sustaining medical interventions if he or she is in a permanent vegetative state.  All of these documents require either witnesses or a notary be present when executed, and some require both.

Our firm has continued to navigate our clients’ increased estate planning needs in the face of COVID 19 and the difficulties that have arisen in having witnesses available to execute estate planning documents. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s April 7, 2020 Executive Order, authorizes the remote execution of Wills, Powers of Attorneys and Healthcare Proxies, facilitating estate planning during the COVID 19 pandemic.  This new law specifically authorizes the utilization of audio-video technology to execute estate planning documents, provided that enumerated conditions are met. Utilizing the newly authorized audio-video procedures, and alternatively implementing responsible safeguards when an in-person execution ceremony is absolutely necessary, we at Sahn, Ward, Coschignano PLLC are able to continue to service our clients’ estate planning needs.

We recommend that clients consult with members of our trusts and estates team to discuss estate planning.