As a result of the surge of COVID-19 cases throughout Florida recently, many Floridians who had not considered getting a last will and testament prepared or not previously contemplated their mortality are now seeking to get their legal affairs organized quickly. While most people only have mild symptoms of COVID-19, it does not hurt to be prepared by having your estate plan in order. I’ve always felt strongly that everyone should have at least a basic estate plan, regardless of the COVID-19 outbreak, so a person’s wishes will be honored in the event of death, incapacity or a health crisis. Having an estate plan implemented is meant to ease concerns by knowing who will be in charge and what will happen if something unexpected happens to you or your loved ones.
As of May 1, 2020, Traditional estate planning meetings between clients and their lawyers are still occurring during the pandemic in many lawyers’ offices. Additionally, many lawyers are now offering their estate planning meetings with clients to transpire via telephonic or video conferencing instead of the common in office meeting to practice social distancing recommendations. Traditional document executions in lawyers’ offices are now taking place not only in lawyers’ offices but also in client’s homes and some documents are now even being executed remotely utilizing electronic notarization (electronic notarization for many estate planning documents became legal in Florida on January 1, 2020).
Additionally, some individuals have turned to online legal document building websites to help them draft estate planning documents through online legal technology companies that help customers create legal documents. Florida law requires very specific requirements to draft and execute documents such as wills, deeds, powers of attorneys, health care surrogate designations and trusts so it is important to make sure proper execution procedures are followed to ensure documents are valid at execution.
Regardless of path chosen to get estate planning documents in place, I recommend at a bare minimum for individuals age eighteen (18) or older to have a basic estate plan. A basic estate plan would include documents such as: a durable power of attorney, health care surrogate designation, living will, HIPAA release and last will and testament. It is probably also prudent to spend some of this down time at home looking at the current titling and beneficiary designations of your assets and making sure your assets are titled as you wish.
Whenever configuring an estate plan, it’s important to meet and discuss with a qualified estate planning lawyer where you plan what will happen to each of your assets upon your death to ensure that your estate planning goals are accomplished at the time of death.
Kevin R. Albaum is a shareholder with the law firm of Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson, P.A., in Lakeland. Questions can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org