Estate Law Blog
Estate Planning and Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
We are -- as we're continuually reminded -- in uncharted waters. As of this writing, all New Jersey residents are under order to remain home except under very limited circumstances. Governor Murphy's Executive Order 107 makes no exception for travel to handle legal matters. Law firms throughout the State are closed to the public.
At the same time, there is an urgent demand in our community for estate planning. Facing this pandemic, many of our clients are looking for first time at the importance of having a Will, a financial power of attorney, and perhaps most especially a health care directive.
So I feel like we have to figure something out.
Drafting documents, reviewing them with clients, getting everything right, that's easy enough. The tricky bit is the actual signing of the documents. There are at least two options, and we're trying them both. One is to use the model adopted by pharmacies, some supermarkets, and pizza places. The client signs in their car or on their front step while my staff and I watch from a distance, and then we make a clean exchange of the signed documents. I'm not sure this is fully compliant with the Executive Order, but with care it can be done with zero contact and no risk of transmittal.
A second option is to do as much as can be done with teleconferencing, video conferencing, and electronic delivery of documents to signed by the client at home. The product will not be a Will that conforms to New Jersey's probate code. With proper drafting and documentation, I am confident that we can create a writing that could be admitted to probate through the Superior Court. This stop-gap measure is far better than nothing, and we can execute the Will with full formalities when that's possible.
This is developing so quickly that I'm reluctant to even publish here about it. If you're concerned about the state of your Will, health care directive, or financial power of attorney, I hope you'll call to discuss the best options.
Please be safe.