Legal Issues in the Coronavirus Pandemic

First and foremost, we at Gilbert & Greif, P.A. want you to stay safe and healthy during these times. Federal, state and local authorities are issuing guidelines and bulletins daily, and there will be more to come. Business at every level is affected, and families and individuals face uncertainty regarding what lies ahead, both medically and financially.

Like everyone else, we have been impacted by these events, but the good news is that we are open and available to assist our clients with their legal questions and problems. Some may arise specifically out of the coronavirus situation, and others are part of everyday life, as unusual as things are at the moment. For the safety of all, we are restricting personal visits to the office, but we can still cover a lot of ground through phone, video and email. The law has faced previous pandemics so there is precedent to be drawn on. Although there has been some emergency legislation passed at both the federal and state levels, most of what we deal with and have dealt with for years remains in place. Because of court shutdowns, there will be delays in certain cases, but that is nothing new. We resolve to remain calm and carry on. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Planning for the Future - Part1

Do you have a will? You should.

Many people find their own death to be a difficult topic to even comprehend, let alone to discuss with others. As a result, many procrastinate when it comes to

making a will because it is perceived as an unpleasant process. In fact, a 2005 Gallup poll found that only 51% of adults have a will. Unfortunately, though, ignoring the prospect of death will not make it go away. If you do not have a will, then your property will be distributed regardless, but you will not have a say in the matter.

In the state of Maine, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to the Maine Probate Code's intestate succession rules. These default rules provide:

  • That a surviving spouse or registered domestic partner receives the entire estate if you have no descendants or living parents.
  • If you have living descendants or parents, then the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner will get at least half of the estate, and may get more than half depending upon the particular circumstances.
  • If you have no spouse or registered domestic partner, the property would go to your descendants.
  • If there are no descendants, your property would go to your parents.
  • If your parents are not alive, the property would go to your parents’ descendants.

Your will: Your say in the matter.

If you do not have a will, I encourage you to strongly consider getting one drafted. Your will would not only outline the disposal of your property in accordance with your wishes, but could also designate guardians for minor children and identify a trustworthy individual whom you would like to designate to administer your estate. If you have children who are not yet able to handle funds, you can create a trust in your will and name a trustee to handle the funds of any children or other beneficiaries.

If your will is never created, your property may wind up in a surprising place.

Unless you truly do not care what happens to your property upon death or the default rules are in perfect accordance with your wishes, there is no reason not to make a will. If you have a non-registered domestic partner, friends, or a charity to whom you would wish to give property, the Legislature's default rules are not going to consider them.

Benefits of talking to an attorney face to face: It helps to have someone knowledgeable and experienced review such important documents.

Though some may advocate using legal document services like LegalZoom, such services are no substitute for legal advice. There are many benefits to talking to an attorney face to face. Questions are bound to arise during this process and even if you do not have any questions, an attorney who assists you in planning an estate may make recommendations you have not thought of or prevent you from making any serious mistakes. Gilbert & Greif, P.A. can work with you in crafting a will and planning your estate at a relatively small cost. We will take the time to get to understand your intentions for your legacy and together find the best way to accomplish these goals.

The Parting Gift

I recommend that you simply pick a day when you are going to tackle all of these unpleasant thoughts and get your affairs in order. When this task is accomplished, you may never have to think about it ever again. However, you can be secure in knowing that your property will be disposed of according to your own rules, not the default rules of the State. In all likelihood, your family will thank you for it.

Erik M.P. Black