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Updating Your Estate Plan During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic and its staggering death toll have served to remind us of just how vital estate planning can be. The crisis has motivated many people to make or to revisit their preparations for possible death or disability. A comprehensive estate plan can ensure that your healthcare wishes are followed and that your assets are managed and distributed as you want them to be.

Fortunately, you can update your estate plan during the pandemic without putting your health at risk. Discussing your desires with your attorney is an integral part of the process, so most estate planning attorneys will meet with you over Zoom or another video conferencing platform.

The cornerstone of estate planning is writing a will, which you can use to designate who will inherit which of your assets if you die. Florida law now authorizes the execution of electronic wills and also allows legal documents to be notarized online. For a will to be legally valid, it must be notarized and signed by two uninterested third-party witnesses. The new law allows Florida notaries to affix their seals and signatures to legal documents virtually by witnessing the signature in a two-way video conference. Third-party witnesses can also witness and attest to the execution of the will remotely. This new law has proved especially useful during the pandemic.

While wills are always important, other estate planning documents may be needed to address short- and long-term health crises that may arise. The following should be considered:

  • Living will — This document allows you to clarify your wishes regarding life-saving and life-sustaining measures to be taken or withheld if you suffer an injury or ailment that leaves you in a permanent vegetative state.
  • Healthcare power of attorney — This authorizes an individual, known as your agent, to make health care decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  • HIPPA authorization — This form allows another person, such as your agent, to access your personal medical information from your healthcare providers.
  • Durable financial power of attorney — This authorizes another person to make financial decisions on your behalf if you should become incapacitated.

These documents, collectively known as advance directives, can help you ensure that your wishes are followed and that you are provided for in situations where you fall ill or cannot take care of yourself. Such directives can also help your family members avoid having to make agonizing decisions about your care and quality of life.

If you want to create or update your estate plan during the pandemic, the experienced attorneys at Bankier, Arlen & Snelling Law Group, PLLC in Delray Beach are available to meet virtually to discuss your needs. To arrange a consultation, please call M. Adam Bankier at 561-278-3110, Robert M. Arlen at 561-279-1880 or Linda L. Snelling at 561-501-7778 or contact us online.

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