As awful as the coronavirus pandemic is, we should all be grateful that it has hit at a time in history when we have the technology to help us cope. First and foremost, medical science has advanced to the point that vaccines to protect us from catastrophe have been developed at an unimaginable rate of speed.
Beyond that, we have several ways to communicate with and “see” loved ones and the world around us, to have deliveries of food and other necessities to our homes, and even to confer with medical and other professionals online. One type of professionals much sought after during the pandemic is skilled estate planning attorneys. With the threat of mortality all too real for those of all ages and states of health, a great many people are eager to create or update documents that will distribute their assets after death and instruct their families about their final wishes.
In Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod, Surprenant & Beneski, is an estate planning legal practice that is well-respected for our knowledge, efficiency, and personalized attention. We are ready and willing to assist clients anxious to protect themselves and their loved ones for whatever comes next.We are fully aware of how necessary taking appropriate cautions is during the COVID-19 crisis and are set up to meet with you virtually to avoid risk.
What makes virtual estate planning possible in Massachusetts?
Last April, during the first peek of the coronavirus, Governor Baker signed An Act Providing For Virtual Notarization To Address Challenges Related To COVID-19 into law. This law permits notaries in the Commonwealth to notarize documents remotely with the assistance of electronic videoconferencing technology.
The law will remain in effect until 3 days after the Commonwealth declares the State of Emergency has been lifted. It is pivotal to video conferencing since it provides for drafted and reviewed documents to be authorized as authentic while participating parties are in separate locations. This means that you can have the benefit of excellent guidance from the comfort and safety of your own home.
What Virtual Estate Planning Can Accomplish
During this global period of widespread disease and death, most people are experiencing a heightened sense of vulnerability and an awareness of mortality. Knowing the possibility of serious illness or fatality is greater for the general population than it’s been in 100 years, responsible individuals in the U.S. and throughout the world want to make sure they are prepared. Our estate planning attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski can provide the following services even if you are homebound during lockdowns or quarantine:
 Discuss your financial and familial situation to determine your unique needs now and in the future. It should be noted that others can attend this virtual consultation, even if they are in various parts of the state.
 Draft essential documents to protect your assets and your family, including:
- Will to designate beneficiaries, a personal representative (executor), and a guardian for your young children.
- Trusts of various kinds to protect your assets from excessive taxation, probate, and creditors, and to see to it that you make provisions for special needs children, spendthrift relatives, pets, charitable entities close to your heart, etc.
- Durable power of attorney to name a trusted person to tend to your financial interests while you are incapacitated.
- Health care proxy to name the person you have faith in to make the right decisions for your medical care if you are unable to do so.
- Advance Care Directive to state your personal preferences as to which types of end-of-life care you want to receive (e.g. feeding tube, respirator), and possibly a DNR (do not resuscitate) order.
- HIPAA authorization to allow your medical records and current information to be disclosed to those close to you. This will enable them to understand your condition, weigh-in on your treatment options, know your prognosis, and have informed conversations with the medical professionals who are tending you.
- Document to state your final wishes concerning whether you want to be buried or cremated, what type of memorial you would like, and any last words you would like to say to your loved ones.
 Review, Revise, and Update Existing Documents
These steps are vital because they keep your estate planning current. Depending on how long ago your documents were updated and what has occurred in your life during the recent past, your estate plan may have to be altered due to:
- Birth in the family
- Death in the family
- Illness, injury, or disability
- Major change in income level
- Major change in assets
- New business or sale of a business
The list goes on and on, but this is the time to make certain that you’ve tied up the loose ends and can experience peace of mind going into 2021 which will, hopefully, be an easier one for all of us. The benefits of being able to accomplish this during a virtual estate planning consultation are invaluable since they allow you to remain safe from contagion, able to meet even if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or if you are staying home to care for someone you love.
©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375. This article is for illustration purposes only. This handout does not constitute legal advice. There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article. DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout. Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney. Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.