As an attorney who has practiced in the area of estate planning for many years, one of the biggest challenges has always been getting potential clients to accept the importance of completing their estate plans now, rather than adding it to the list of things they might eventually need to take care of. It’s human nature to believe that creating a will or trust is not something you might need. After all, you’re not old, or sick, so there’s plenty of time to take care of these things later. Seriously, who wants to think about what may happen after you die? Or that you may die.
But proper estate planning is much more than a plan to distribute assets after you pass away. It includes planning for incapacity or extended illness. It should designate and empower someone to make financial and health care decisions for you, should you not be able to. It should designate who will care for and support your children, or continue your business after you are gone.
For me, nothing will ever replace the energy I derive by meeting clients in person. But our current normal requires that attorneys take a new approach. So I, like other attorneys, have had had to adapt. I have been able to continue to provide estate planning advice and counsel via Zoom meetings. And although businesses are beginning to “open,” many clients are not yet comfortable meeting in person. Nor are we. So we are taking things slowly.
While Zoom has allowed me to continue initial consultations, have planning meetings and present final documents, properly executing documents has remained a challenge. A testamentary document such as a will or trust must be executed in person before two witnesses and a notary. To accomplish this, our mobile notary has traveled to clients’ homes, maintaining proper social distancing and when requested to do so, witnessed document signings by looking through a window. But the legal requirement for executing these documents in person is changing.
Effective July 1st, Florida wills and trusts can be signed, witnessed and notarized virtually. Notaries who are certified to perform RON (remote online notarization) can facilitate the virtual execution of testamentary documents from the comfort of your home. The notary can even provide the necessary witnesses.
So, if you have do not have an estate plan or have one in need of updating, reach out to your attorney now. If you don’t have an attorney, find one. There are many qualified estate planning attorneys in the area and most offer complimentary initial consultations. Look for someone who has experience, competence, and compassion. And be sure they offer the option of virtual notarizations.
The pandemic has changed our world and once again reminds us of the fragility of life. No matter what your age or health situation, now is the time to create an estate plan.
Life can change in an instant. What are you waiting for?
Bruce Iden earned his J.D. from George Washington University National Law Center and his L.L.M in taxation from the University of Miami School of Law. He has been practicing in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law for over 30 years. For more information, or to schedule a consultation with Mr. Iden, contact Iden Law Offices at 954-885-0085.