The Importance Of Estate Planning During The Coronavirus Pandemic
By Sarah L. Golombek, Esq. ~
These are unprecedented times we are living in with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Not surprisingly, many are worried about their health and are concerned about whether their financial and legal affairs are in order in the event of serious illness or death. Pandemic or not, it is always recommended that everyone, regardless of circumstance, have an estate plan in place. Every estate plan should include at least four primary documents: a will, a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney, and a living will. A proper estate plan addresses a wide variety of important matters including:
- Who do you want to make medical decisions for you during your incapacity?
- What are your medical wishes in the event of incapacity or at end of life?
- Who do you want to manage your finances during incapacity?
- What are your wishes with respect to disposition of your remains upon death?
- What is the most efficient way to administer your estate upon death and avoid the probate process if appropriate?
Although a will is extremely important, advance directives can be even more significant, especially during times of a health crisis such as the current COVID-19 Pandemic. Powers of attorney and a living will provide clear direction to be taken on one’s behalf during incapacity. Thus, during times of uncertainty such as the current health crisis, having these documents in place can result in swifter medical treatment in accordance with one’s expressed wishes, as well as certainty with respect to the management of one’s financial affairs. This is especially crucial should a person require assistance due to being quarantined, or hospitalized. Without such directives, unprepared family members may find themselves facing obstacles in order to assist a loved one during an emergency or serious illness (especially in light of the current stay-at-home restrictions when financial institutions are physically closed and medical providers are overwhelmed with treating virus-infected patients).
Another difficulty that has arisen due to the COVID-19 Pandemic is the ability for estate planning attorneys to meet with clients in person. Governors across the country have implemented emergency orders to allow for remote notarization which allow attorneys to witness their clients sign their estate planning documents virtually through video-conferencing programs such as Zoom or Skype. In Colorado, Governor Polis signed such an Order which has been extended through the end of May, 2020. I expect that this Order will continue to be extended until in-person meetings become safer. Remote notarization while enormously helpful, especially for vulnerable persons who should not be leaving their homes, has many requirements in order to be properly utilized. Thus, if executing an estate plan remotely during COVID-19, it is important to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who is knowledgeable about the proper procedures.
In sum, estate planning is crucial to have in place during these uncertain times of the Coronavirus Pandemic. It is extremely important to have clear advance directives outlining who is authorized to make medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf in the event of quarantine, hospitalization or incapacity. As the wise Benjamin Franklin once said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
Sarah L. Golombek, Esq., is the principal attorney of Golombek Law LLC, practicing in the areas of estate planning, probate and elder law in the Denver Metro area. She is licensed to practice in New York and Colorado. She currently serves as secretary of the Colorado Bar Association Elder Law Section and the current President of the Colorado Guardianship Association. She has been chosen as Barrister’s People’s Choice Best Trust and Estates Attorney in 2016, and recognized by Colorado Super Lawyers from 2012-2020. She can be reached at: Sarah@GolombekLaw.com.