Covid-19 estate planning to avoid probate court

I imagine anybody reading this blog post has thought about the serious issues related to Covid-19. Most notably of course is the death rate and the rapidly growing numbers of deaths around the world but also right here in California, USA.  I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom but I am a lawyer and I am a realist. I am a really good probate attorney because I focus on the business side of things. I take care of business when times are tough for the family whose loved one just died. That’s what I do.

I do not normally blog about estate planning as I have not done estate planning myself in several years. However, I have several highly experienced estate planning attorneys in my law firm who can help you. Reach out to me and I’ll be happy to connect you with one of them.   Our main estate planning attorneys include two who are Certified Specialists in Estate Planning and two who are former CPAs. All four are highly experience with at least 15 years experience and one who has 40 years experience!

Why am I talking about estate planning today?  Well the people that don’t do their estate plan properly will leave their family hiring me, or a guy like me, to run their estate through a California probate Court. That’s what I do. I clean up messes in California probate Courts, throughout the state, after death when people don’t take care of their affairs proper like.

What are we doing to help facilitate an easy estate planning process during this Covid-19 situation?  First of all we are having as many meetings as possible via phone, Skype, Zoom, etc….  We do as much work as possible through fax, email, US Mail, etc…. We do everything we can to not meet face to face until it’s time to sign.  There are a few exceptions to this but that’s our general rule right now under these historic times. Normally we meet with people face to face and we will get back to that soon but right now we know people are scared, people want to update their estate plans, and people want to avoid human contact to the extent possible. We are trying to help!  We also are closely monitoring the proposal for California to go to remote notarization of documents that some other states have adopted.

So how would we work with you?  Here is a breakdown of the California estate planning process when you work with our firm.

First, and foremost, CALL OR EMAIL US FOR AN APPOINTMENT.  You need to start the process. We can’t read your mind that you are thinking about doing estate plan.  The contact info is up in the upper right corner of this page. We can usually get you on the calendar within 48 hours and sometimes the same day!  CALL OR EMAIL NOW not later please!

Second, at the initial phone/skype/zoom meeting the estate planning attorney will make sure you are comfortable with them and then go through an overview of your situation. Usually the attorney can make recommendations and give you a fee quote right there on the phone.

Third, is working toward the creation of a rough draft. Often the attorney and clients can get the needed questions answered through email and/or that initial meeting above. Sometimes there is some follow up questions as well. Once the draft is done it will usually be sent out so you can review it at home. This can be sent electronically or by US Mail or by FedEx if you prefer.  In special cases we can even deliver – for example a person in the hospital who wants to review quickly.

Fourth, is typically another phone/skype/zoom meeting to go over the rough drafts. At this meeting the attorney will explain the documents and answer any questions.

Fifth, is the signing. This is where we have to meet or we have to send you signing instructions to sign at home. Typically a notary is required. Of course there are mobile notaries throughout the state.  Whether we sign at our office, at your home, in a hospital room, in a care home, or wherever it may be we will be as careful as we can be.

For signings at our office we have people enter and exit through the hallway door  that goes straight to the conference room.  We clean all surfaces before and after each client. We are typically not working at the office but we will make arrangements to have signing days to meet with multiple clients the same day. Again, we will sanitize between meetings and, of course, everybody will be washing their hands a lot!  Some clients recently brought their own pens and, of course, everybody is welcome to wear a face mask or gloves as they like.  We want everybody to be as comfortable as possible under the circumstances.

Lastly, will be the trust funding. Once the documents are signed we will send in the deed for recording. Currently, in Sacramento for example, deeds can be filed through the Superior Court downtown.  We will help with other assets being funded into the trust as well.  We will answer all questions you have.

In summary the key here is doing your estate plan so your loved ones are not left with having to go through the California probate process. As a probate attorney I like the probate process but most people don’t find it that enjoyable.  Get your affairs in order, now more than ever, to help your loved ones should something happen to you.

Stay healthy!

-John Palley

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