In these times of crisis, many may only just now be realizing that they do not have all of their estate planning and other end-of-life documents in order. Everyone should at least have an executed and up to date Last Will and Testament. Your Last Will and Testament tells the world to whom your belongings and assets should be given upon your death. In your initial consult with our attorneys, you will also discuss who you choose as your beneficiaries, the Guardian(s) of your Children, and the Executor of your Estate who will be in charge of distributing your assets.
Our experienced estate attorneys also recommend executing a General Durable Power of Attorney and an Advanced Directive Healthcare Power of Attorney (Living Will). The General Durable Power of Attorney gives someone the power to step into your shoes and make decisions on your behalf regarding your assets should you be unable to do so yourself. The Living Will grants the same powers in terms of your health care and provides your agent with directions and guidance as to your preferences. Your attorney in fact and healthcare agent do not necessarily need to be the same person. These individuals will have fiduciary duties to you which mean they have a legal duty to act in your best interest. However, they should be people that you trust completely.
Our attorneys know that people may want or need these documents sooner rather than later. In consideration of the recommendations from the CDC, Governors Wolf and Murphy, and other governmental agencies/officials, Leonard Sciolla has considered options to help its clients get valid copies of these documents prepared and executed with limited personal/face-to-face interaction. A typical case requires an in-person meeting, sometimes follow-up questions via phone or email, a final review of your documents, and a second in-person meeting to execute all documents including having them notarized.
To avoid these two meetings, Leonard Sciolla is making its lawyers available via Google Hangouts and FaceTime for the initial meeting (and we are working on additional methods). And we will provide detailed instructions for how to execute the documents so that you are able to get these important documents executed with minimal contact and maximum safety. Last Wills and Testaments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are valid if your signatures are witnessed by any two competent adults, although they are only self-proving if they are notarized. A will that is not self-proving may require the testimony of one of your witnesses to be probated. Powers of attorney, unfortunately, do require a notary to be valid. Bills have been introduced in the Legislatures of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania to allow for virtual notarization, but neither has been enacted. Leonard Sciolla is monitoring any updates to their status. There are also a variety of options to find a notary in your own community, including banks.
If you have additional questions, please contact John J. Leonard, Heidi E. Anderson, or Robert R. Atkins, Jr. at (215) 567-1530 or (856) 273-6679 or visit us on our website at LeonardSciolla.com.