Articles Posted in Crisis Planning

Social distancing requirements across the country have forced us to adapt quickly to new methods of executing what previously seemed like simple tasks. With the number of COVID-19 cases on the rise in Houston on a daily basis, more and more members of our community are opting for remote or online options when conducting their notary service needs. Because your personal and familial health and well being is a priority during this challenging time, the last thing anyone needs is a lengthy, complicated, and burdensome process when taking care of notary-related logistics. Yet, while now is a good time to work on a Houston estate plan, many estate planning documents require notarization services.

In Texas, information about using an online notary or becoming an online notary public is available through the Texas Secretary of State’s webpage. Online notary publics are public servants who are commissioned by the state as traditional notary publics but also have the authority to perform notarizations online using a two-way video or audio conference. To successfully get a Houston notary public to perform an online notarization of your files, the notary needs to be physically located within the state of Texas at the time of notarization, but the signing party or principal can be located anywhere.

Similar to typical in-person operations, Houston online notary publics are also required to maintain a secure electronic record of the documents notarized and ensure that there is proper credential analysis and identity proofing even with an online, socially distanced format. Records are kept by online notaries for five years from the date of the notarization of the documents and serve to protect you as the client. Additionally, notary publics are required to check the validity of government-issued identification and identity. With these extra security and safety checks in place, utilizing an online notary for your documents is as easy and safe as it was prior to social distancing measures were put in place.

“The reality of COVID-19 has forced many individuals to address the ‘what if’ scenarios that were previously unthinkable, or at least the situations that no one ever wants to talk about or deal with.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are looking to execute estate plans they’ve delayed in finalizing and signing. Others are ready to get going on their estate plans that they should’ve started years ago.

Forbes’ recent article entitled “Eight Estate Planning Strategies In A COVID-19 World” lists some things you should know.

Man thinking on computer
“Maintaining a valid and current estate plan is vitally necessary in order to ensure the efficient and orderly dispersion of assets after a person dies. However, even a small mistake can create huge problems during the settlement process, and in many cases, these errors are impossible for anyone to correct.”

There are a few important mistakes that can make an estate plan defective—most of these can be easily avoided by reviewing your estate plan periodically and keeping it up to date.

Investopedia’s article from a few years ago entitled “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning” lists these common blunders:

Group of peopleSigned into law on Friday, March 27, the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act is the biggest economic stimulus package in U.S. history. Below are essential highlights for individuals and small businesses.

Individuals

One-time direct deposits of up to $1,200 for individual taxpayers with incomes up to $75,000 and $2,400 for joint filers with incomes up to $150,000. An additional $500 for each eligible child can also

6a019b003fe4d5970b025d9b3eaf45200c-300x200The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering up to $2 million in Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses impacted by the coronavirus, in addition to a resource page detailing eligibility and how to apply.

It’s estimated that some 30 million US small businesses may fall victim to the coronavirus through closures, cancellations and other revenue losses. With no clear end in sight, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering eligible businesses low-interest disaster relief loans to cover operating expenses.

These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses. The interest rate for non-profits is 2.75%. In order to keep payments affordable, they are offering long-term repayments, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay.

6a019b003fe4d5970b025d9b3dd866200c-600wi-300x200For many Houstonians, the fear of the unknown health, social, economic, and financial challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic are prompting intense concern and anxiety. If you are self-isolating or quarantining at home, you probably are already creating your new “normal” schedules, researching online resources, and creating ways to find comfort for yourself and your family.

Experts have suggested that in addition to movie marathons and being on social media, the time at home can be used to accomplish those things that you have been putting off, like spring cleaning and taxes. We suggest that now is a good time to revisit your estate planning goals. Now, more than ever, we’re experiencing the magnitude of just how essential planning for your future is. While most of these Coronavirus events are out of our control, we CAN plan for how important decisions about our estate and our health will be dealt with in the case of the unexpected.  As experienced Houston estate planning and elder law attorneys, all too often we see the dangers and unexpected consequences of not planning.

The bare bones of an estate plan start with a Will. Every adult needs a last will and testament, drafted by an experienced attorney, that will guide your executor to distribute your assets as YOU want them. The next minimum requirement for pre-planning are your powers of attorneys. If you become incapacitated or disabled, your financial (durable) and medical powers of attorneys can empower the right people to legally act for you, make transactions, consent to treatment, and potentially save time, money and even your life.

6a019b003fe4d5970b0240a517463f200b-600wi-300x200On March 13 President Trump declared a national emergency due to extraordinary circumstances resulting from Coronavirus. This Declaration opens up new methods for employers to provide tax-favored financial assistance to employees affected by the virus.

As the coronavirus pandemic emergency unfolds, it’s clear that increasing numbers of employees will likely suffer financial impacts … from quarantines, illnesses, workplace closings, etc. President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13, 2020 now allows employers to make direct disaster-relief payments to assist employees affected by the virus.

These types of payments are not treated as income/wages to the employees and are deductible to the employer as ordinary and necessary business expenses. There is no specific cap on the amount of assistance that may be provided to an employee other than it must be “reasonable and necessary” and must not be for an expense reimbursable by the employee’s insurance.

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