In recent weeks, COVID-19 has forced all of us to ponder many questions related to end-of-life decision making, such as: Are my affairs in order? Who will care for my minor children? Are my health care wishes known, and is a loved one properly designated to make those decisions for me? Sadly, if a loved one gets sick and is admitted to the hospital with COVID-19, they will be isolated immediately from friends and family. In order to prepare for any eventuality, we at Adler Law want to make you aware of some very recent changes in our ability to help you answer these questions.
On April 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.14, which suspends in-person witnessing requirements for the execution of wills and other essential estate planning documents through May 7, 2020. The Order allows us to utilize audio-visual technology to comply with execution requirements that previously must be done in person. A visit to our office is no longer necessary. All arrangements and documents can be finalized remotely, without any in-person contact.
Under this Order, all of the following legal documents can be finalized and made immediately effective utilizing audio-visual technology:
* Last Will and Testament: A document that expresses your wishes regarding the distribution of your property upon death and designates Guardians for the care of minor children.
* Power of Attorney: Designation of an agent or agents to make decisions regarding your property while you are alive.
* Health Care Proxy: Designation of an agent or agents to make decisions regarding your health care during your life in the event you are unable to communicate these wishes yourself.
* Living Will: Document whereby you express directives to be followed in the event you become unable to make or communicate decisions regarding your medical care.
* Trust: A written document whereby assets are transferred to a trustee for the benefit of a third party. Trusts can be used to avoid the lengthy and costly probate process and to provide asset protection to the creator and beneficiaries.
Here are the guidelines set forth in this Executive Order:
* The person requesting that their signature be witnessed, if not personally known to the witnesses, must present valid photo ID to the witnesses during the course of the video conference, and cannot merely transmit it prior to or after.
* The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the witnesses and the supervising attorney, if applicable.
* The witness must receive a legible copy of the signature page(s), which may be sent by email, fax, or other electronic means, on the same date that the pages are signed.
* The witnesses can sign the transmitted copy (i.e., emailed or faxed copy) of the signature page(s) and transmit it back to the person.
* The witnesses may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of the execution, as long as the witnesses receive the original signature pages, along with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty (50) days after the date of the execution.
As we acclimate to this new reality, we are faced with many challenges: ensuring our families are safe and healthy, acting as caregivers to those that are ill, and doing our best to remain hopeful. This is a time for us to prepare for all eventualities, and with these recent legal developments, we are able to do so safely without putting anyone at risk. Provide yourself and your loved ones with an additional layer of protection by making sure your estate plan is solidly in place.