Brooklyn Top Elder Care Attorney Answers Coronavirus Frequently Asked Questions
#1: If I get sick with Coronavirus, do I need a will?
Whether you have the Coronavirus or not, a will is an important document and a necessary document to have when it comes to Estate Planning. When there is no will to name an executor, state law provides a list of people who are eligible to fill the role. If a probate court proceeding is necessary, the court will choose someone based on that priority list. This process can be very gruesome and unnecessary, so in order to avoid this, a will should be executed whether your sick with the Coronavirus or you’re healthy.
#2: If I have been diagnosed with Covid-19 do I need a healthcare proxy?
Similar to the will, it is important to have a healthcare proxy regardless of whether or not your diagnosed with the coronavirus. A health care proxy lets you appoint a competent adult to make decisions about your medical treatment in the event you lose the ability to decide for yourself – including decisions to remove or provide life-sustaining treatment. If you don’t have a health care proxy, New York State law provides a back up that works in certain situations. For example, if you wind up in a hospital and are unable to make your own health care decisions, the law provides a specific order of priority in terms of persons who are allowed to make them for you. Communicating your health care wishes to someone without that document does not mean that your wishes will be honored. This type of situation can be avoided with the Health Care Proxy. This document ensures that your health care wishes are honored and also makes sure the person you want is making your health care decisions.
#3: Can I make a power of attorney if I am already in the Hosptial with Covid-19?
If you do not have a Power of Attorney (POA) and are being hospitalized, it is still not too late to execute this document. The Power of Attorney is a necessary part of Estate Planning. While the Health Care Proxy appoints a person of your choosing to make any health care decisions for you, a Power of Attorney appoints someone to be in charge of making decisions concerning financial, property, and other issues. Although in most cases, a power of attorney must be signed and notarized with an attorney present, due to the health crisis we are facing, Governor Cuomo has signed an Executive Order allowing for notarization via live audio-video transmission. Thanks to this Executive Order, it is now possible to have your estate planning documents executed even in isolation.
#4: Can I execute my will electronically if I am quarantined during Covid-19?
Many people have never considered the importance of a will until this crisis has struck. Although it’s recommended that you sit with an experienced estate planning attorney, this global health crisis has made this task difficult. Fortunately, it’s not too late to execute a will for you or your loved ones. Just like with any other estate planning document above, you can meet with a lawyer over the phone or through teleconferencing programs like Zoom. Once your will is drafted, you can sign your will at home, and get it notarized at a later date.
#5: What happens to my property if I die without a will during Covid-19?
If you die intestate or without a will, your assets will go to the closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. If the are disagreements in the family over who received what things, or who gets custody of a child, the estate could go through Probate court. A probate court is a court that has competence in a jurisdiction to deal with matters of probate and the administration of estates. In some jurisdictions, such courts may be referred to as Orphans' Courts, or courts of ordinary. Probate hearing can be costly, so the best way to avoid these issues is to have an estate plan set up.
#6: Are courts in NYC open during Coronovirus if I need to file a will in probate?
During this pandemic, NYC courts have decided to only remain open for cases that require urgency. Otherwise, all cases that were scheduled have been postponed until COVID-19 will get under control.
#7: Can I file will in probate electronically during Covid 19?
During the COVID-19, you are allowed to electronically file your will in probate. With the Executive Order signed by Cuomo, you can sign Powers of Attorney, Trusts, and Affidavits by video conference with your attorney provided it is signed and notarized by the expiration date. An important document that does not require a notarization is a Last Will and Testament. Accordingly, it is not covered by the Executive Order. Like most other states, New York State does not provide guidance on virtual supervision of Will executions and there is little to no case law on the subject within the State. Statutory law (NYS EPTL 3-2.1) provides that a Will must be executed “in the presence of” at least two witnesses. Witnesses don’t necessarily have to be there in person but must be present remotely via video or audio.
#8: My mother died without a will of Coronavirus in Brooklyn NY, what should I do now?
Well, first, we are very sorry for your loss. Second, not too much can be done now as courts are not operating at full capacity. You should definitely get a consultation with an elder care lawyer about administration of your mother’s estate and start the step by step administration process in the state of New York County of Kings where she died. Since your mother died of Covid-19 in King’s County without a will her estate will be distributed in accordance with NY EPTL laws.
If you or a loved one need help to execute all the necessary estate planning documents, contact the Law Office Of Inna Fershteyn. Inna is a great estate planning attorney who has over 20 years of experience. Since the start of this pandemic, Inna has helped people remotely draft, and sign all estate planning documents from the comfort of people’s homes, without ever putting anyone’s safety at risk. If you need help executing the proper estate planning documents, call (718) 333-2394 to set up an online consultation or contact us online.