Elder Law and Estate Planning Guidance

Elder Law and Estate Planning Guidance
Riker Danzig Elder Law/Estates Client UPDATE March 20, 2020

Dear Clients and Friends,

We hope this message finds you well. As we all try to cope with the unprecedented situation arising from the current pandemic, we want to take this opportunity to inform you of certain legal, tax, financial and other implications that may be of importance to you.  Rest assured that our offices are still operating and fully functional. Fortunately, our attorneys and staff are equipped to work remotely and many have been doing so in order to limit social contacts as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (the “CDC”). We are presently accessible via telephone and email, and we hare using Zoom to conduct virtual meetings with our clients. Accordingly, we welcome the opportunity to continue to assist you.  

Below is information we believe may be helpful to you.

Review Your Health Care Proxies and Living Wills

Your health care proxy, living will and other healthcare related documents are crucial to review for several reasons. Many of these documents, and especially standard forms obtained online or elsewhere, contain language that may be completely contrary to what you might wish to have done during this current crisis.  Some of these documents may prohibit intubation under all circumstances. If you contract COVID-19 and are not presently in a terminal condition, it is possible that you would need to be intubated to survive. Many people who sign such prohibitive forms have in mind an extended stay in a hospital connected to an array of tubes, being artificially kept alive.

Additionally, we are presently amending our living wills and health care proxies to allow agents to communicate with health care professionals remotely, in light of the present recommendation to shelter in place. Also there are new rules which will make signing your documents safe for all parties.  Please contact us to discuss any updates that you may want to implement.

Leverage Technology To Stay in Touch With Your Elderly Neighbors and Loved Ones

While it is clear that COVID-19 poses a serious health risk to all, the CDC advises that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to the virus. In the interest of limiting the spread of COVID-19, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities have all placed restrictions on patient visits. The New York Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), which governs health care facilities in New York State, issued a guidance suggesting limited visitation in health care facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19; however, visitation for the purpose of compassionate care situations, such as end of life situations, is permitted.

In light of the same, a number of our clients have reached out to us for advice on how to stay connected with their elderly loved ones. While we understand how difficult it may be to be kept away from your family members, we highly recommend that you adhere to the restrictions put in place by CMS and other state agencies and health facilities. Here are some suggestions to remain connected with your loved one who is presently hospitalized or confined at a long term care facility:

1) FaceTime calls or telephone calls;

2) Playing digital games together such as Words With Friends, Boggle, Sudoku; or

3) Old-fashioned letters mailed through the United States Postal Service. 

While many of the means of staying connected during this crisis rely on modern technology, there are organizations that can assist you and your loved ones with setting up the required technology to help you remain in contact.  Please contact us for a referral.

Estate and Trust Administration

For our clients with pending legal matters, be advised that our attorneys are keeping abreast of the status of each of our court filings and proceedings. Although some courts are currently closed, they are actively working on and accepting filings. As mentioned, we are still fully operational and here to assist clients in any way we can to make the estate administration and litigation process seamless and efficient.

Extension to Pay Federal Income Taxes

On March 20, 2020, the Secretary of the Treasury announced via Twitter that “tax day” has been moved from April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020 giving all taxpayers an extension of time to file their federal income tax returns. This is in addition to the previously provided 90-day extension of time to pay federal income taxes due for the 2019 tax year.  These extensions will provide a number of taxpayers with immediate economic relief.  To learn more about the tax implications of the current public health crisis, please consult with your accountant or you can visit www.irs.gov.

Revisit Your Financial Plan

The stock market has been in great flux these past couple weeks. The impact on individuals and businesses could be dramatic and negative. Given the rate of government expenditures to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, present legislation to reduce the estate tax exemptions and to assess capital gains taxes upon death may be a reality. These tax changes can have a dramatic effect on your estate planning and as such we recommend pursuing estate tax minimization strategies. Again, while worries about financial security and estate tax matters should not be at the forefront at this time and we feel apologetic to have to raise it, we would be remiss not to do so. 

Your Elder Law/Estates Team at Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP
Michael LaMagna, Alberthe Bernier, Julie Zgoda, Christopher EisenhardtStephen Pagano and Lauren Spitser

Please visit Riker Danzig’s COVID-19 Resource Center to stay up to date on all related legal issues.