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Today’s Normal: Estate Planning During COVID-19

Daniel S. Williford Author Photo
Daniel S. Williford
Mar 26, 2020
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The week starting March 16, 2020 is a week that we will all remember. It is the week that our personal and professional lives changed significantly and we are trying to adjust to a new normal. I hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy as we comply with the orders that our government leaders and medical experts are indicating is the best course of action.

There have been several announcements made by our law firm that our attorneys and staff remain committed to providing you the best legal services that we can during this time. We are working remotely from home and this experience has caused me to evaluate how we can move forward together with social distancing and isolation being the best practices to keep each other healthy. 

For estate planning purposes, we are available via telephone, email, and videoconferencing (Facetime, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams) to discuss your estate planning needs. If you are a current client, we can review your current documentation and make revisions as necessary. New draft documents will be provided by email or regular mail for your review as expeditiously as possible. If you are a new client, we are happy to discuss your current documents or preparing new documents through any of the mediums discussed above. If we need to sign new documents, our Fairport Office is available with a new policy in place to protect each other from potential exposure. This remains an emergency measure, as the first option for everyone’s health will be to send you the documents for signing and execute the documents via video conference. New York State has loosened the requirements on notarization in light of the current situation so that a Notary Public can witness and notarize someone’s signature via videoconference. Our attorneys are all Notaries Public as well. Not ideal, but there is a method being utilized by estate planning attorneys right now to sign a Last Will and Testament by having two disinterested witnesses present via videoconference so that we can complete a Will signing via videoconference by having the two witnesses sign an affidavit in front of us as the Notary Public.  

For long term care planning purposes, please contact us if you have any questions regarding you or a loved one’s hospitalization, potential transition to skilled nursing, and potential Medicaid qualification. All current Medicaid files and applications are being handled as normal as regular mail and email are still being received as normal. Locally, most nursing homes are still admitting new residents and transitioning patients from the hospital. All nursing homes have a lockdown in place restricting visitation, but some facilities are making exceptions when a person is transitioned to allow the new resident to settle. Some nursing homes are even trying to make videoconferencing available to their residents in order to communicate with loved ones. In the hospital, limited visitation is being allowed for maternity patients, child patients, and end of life patients, but all other patients’ visitation is not allowed right now. 

For estate administration purposes, New York State has taken the step of limiting the functionality of all court systems including Surrogate Courts throughout the State. Monroe County Surrogates Court has adjourned all matters to May 2020 and is accepting emergency filings to have Preliminary Executors appointed. Although the Court is only allowing emergency filings, please contact me if you have questions regarding a potential emergency filing/fiduciary appointment. If your fiduciary appointment is not deemed an emergency, we can still prepare the necessary paperwork and send the appropriate Waivers/Consents to all interested parties to make sure the process is expedited once the Courts return to full functionality. All other ongoing estate administrations where a fiduciary has already been appointed are continuing as normal although signing documents will have to take place as described above. 

The above gives you some information regarding how certain estate planning and Elder law matters are operating at this time and how we can still assist you with your legal needs while preserving health and safety. 

In light of the above, any of you that know me, know that what I enjoy the most about my job is getting to know each of you and learning about your own individual life stories. For me personally, I view my life as a series of moments and each moment is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to learn and take positives from every situation. Just this weekend, despite limited time to exercise with three kids, I learned my wife can still run several miles in impressive time. I learned my four year old son can beat me in Dogopoly (the dog version of Monopoly i.e. Park Place and Board Walk are St. Bernard and Great Dane), and put together age 8+ Lego sets without help. My 2 year old son wants to read The Hungry Caterpillar over and over again, but he insists on reading the Chocolate Cake, Ice Cream Cone, Pickle, Swiss Cheese, Salami, Lollipop, Cherry Pie, Sausage, Cupcake, and Watermelon page by himself. My 8-month-old daughter enjoys elbow noodles more than I like ice cream and is getting very close to crawling. Working remotely from home has allowed me to see these things first hand and I am viewing these moments as my silver lining in this crisis. I look forward to learning from you about how this experience has led to some form of silver lining for you. 

What this experience has also taught me is how much I appreciate our health care professionals who are on the front line of this crisis, the teachers teaching remotely, the stay at home parents who care for our children every day, grocery store employees, day care employees and first responders. There are many more businesses out there deemed “essential” that continue to operate with individuals risking their health. To these people I say thank you very much for keeping our world running and keeping us safe. Like all of us, I look forward to the world returning to normal, but for now let us take the positives from a difficult situation. Stay safe and healthy everyone.    

Contact us at MCCM regarding your estate planning, estate administration and elder law needs.

This publication is intended as an information source for clients, prospective clients, and colleagues and constitutes attorney advertising. The content should not be considered legal advice and readers should not act upon information in this publication without individualized professional counsel.

About MCCM

McConville Considine Cooman & Morin, P.C. is a full-service law firm based in Rochester, New York, providing high-quality legal services to businesses and individuals since 1979.  With over a dozen attorneys and a full paralegal support staff, the firm is well-positioned to right-size services tailored to each client. We are large enough to provide expertise in a broad range of practice areas, yet small enough to devote prompt, personal attention to our clients.

We represent a diverse range of clients located throughout New York State and New England.  They include individuals, numerous manufacturing and service industry businesses, local governments, and health care professionals, provider groups, facilities and associations. We also serve as local counsel to out-of-state clients and their attorneys who have litigation pending in Western New York courts.  For more information, please contact us at 585.546.2500.