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Old dogs, New tricks.

We are living in interesting times, the old curse.

I think most of us have come to realize that this virus is a very serious matter and that we need to act carefully to protect ourselves and our families, and by extension all with whom we come in contact.    So even young people (who apparently are at somewhat less risk than oldsters) need to practice social distancing so as to not spread the virus to others, some of whom are at much higher risk.   Slow the spread, as they say.   Save the herd.

As you might imagine, this has drastically impacted how we practice law and interact with clients.    We are striving to carry on our work in a way that practices social distancing, for example, by converting planned meetings to video or teleconferences.    And to be thoughtful about how we meet with clients when that is practically not avoidable, for instance when documents are signed that must be witnessed or notarized.

The concept of “remote notarization” has been authorized by the Governor, but not remote witnessing, so there is much left to think about regarding how documents get signed.   But smart people are thinking about these things very hard, and as time goes by how we carry on our work while protecting our client’s legal interests, and not putting their health at risk, will become more clear.

There are bright spots.    For example the articles we are reading about sewing circles banding together to make face masks (ok these aren’t N95 masks but apparently can still be useful).    And the many examples of first responders, and ordinary citizens, acting selflessly for the benefit of others, and particularly the vulnerable.

You will remember the story about the shoemaker’s children having no shoes?

Well the virus caused me to review my own plan, which was put in place when I had young children, and lo and behold it needed some material revisions, including as to the power of attorney.   And I reviewed my own beneficiary designation forms for relevant accounts, and again, some revisions were called for.  We do tend to think, well I put my Will in place years ago and it was ok then so it must be ok now since they said the documents do not become legally invalid by age.    And that can result in complacency.   If you haven’t reviewed your documents in a while, this is a good time to pull them out and see if they still make sense to you.   Perhaps especially your health care directive.   And if your assets contain retirement plans, consider how the new law the SECURE ACT may impact how those plans now work.   And consider how the increase in estate tax exemption may cause your plan to work differently than you thought it would.     And do you know where your original Will and other documents are now?    If you don’t, please verify that soon.

Along these same lines, I trudged into my basement recently determined to get rid of boxes of things from my parents’ home, so as not to leave this chore to someone else.    I shy away from this task since it can be bittersweet, and sometimes leave you in a saddened state of mind.    But this effort was different.   For some reason, I didn’t feel saddened as I looked back at these very old things, clippings from the newspaper about friends, relatives and world events (some interesting things from WW2), receipts for things bought very long ago, material from family gatherings and the like.   Did I throw any of it away?    No.    But I think some of it I could, when it is time.

I hope you do what you can to remain safe, and at the same time not drive yourself crazy.   I’ve started to get more sleep, and walk more, which helps.    I think we’ve a pretty good idea of how to act now, and how to social distance, and that it won’t help to have a breakdown about whether we could possibly run out of toilet paper…(why is it toilet paper that seems to be the thing people panic about so much?)…..somehow the world got along until it was invented, not all that long ago………

Best wishes.    Please remember the articles enclosed are intended as general thought pieces, and not as legal advice for any specific situation.    Please always see experienced and trusted advisors before embarking upon a matter of significance to your estate plan and related financial matters.

I read this in a book titled “Exhalation” which was given to me some time back……”Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you can do so.”    I like it.


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