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You Need an Estate Plan, but PLEASE Don’t Do It Yourself

With the current state of the world, we understand that many people have concerns about their personal health and what would happen if they were to catch the novel COVID-19. Many of our clients have already begun to review their estate plan to ensure that everything is in order in the event that they were hospitalized and unable to manage their affairs, or worse, what would happen if they died. You, too, should review your documents to make sure your power of attorney, advance directive, Last Will and Testament, and trust(s) are up-to-date.

Although many may feel the need to update their documents, we caution people about using online forms and programs. There are very specific requirements for each document as it pertains to capacity, contents, and execution. As a result, having competent legal representation to ensure such formalities are met becomes critical in ensuring that the documents are legal and that the provisions therein express your personal wishes. Such representation may help avoid lengthy and costly legal disputes.

Most document preparation services or form providers often have a disclaimer that states they (i) do not review documents or provide advice regarding the sufficiency of such documents, (ii) are not a law firm and do not perform services performed by an attorney, and (iii) that their services are not intended to be a substitute for the advice and services of an attorney. Most also state that they cannot guarantee the information and content of their documents. 

LegalZoom, in their own disclaimer, says, “The law is a personal matter, and no general information or legal tool like the kind LegalZoom provides can fit every circumstance. Furthermore, the legal information contained on the Site and Applications is not legal advice and is not guaranteed to be correct, complete or up-to-date. Therefore, if you need legal advice for your specific problem, or if your specific problem is too complex to be addressed by our tools, you should consult a licensed attorney in your area.”

The takeaway – an estate plan is more than just a set of documents, it is a financial and legal plan that utilizes documents as a tool. There is enough chaos in the world right now; your estate plan should not add to it. We remain open and are meeting with clients in person, by telephone, or by video to discuss your estate, long-term care, and financial planning needs.

Ask Kit Kat: How Animals Vote

Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about how animals vote?

Kit Kat: Well, this may seem like an absurd proposition. Animals don’t really vote in the traditional sense for office holders, but they do signal their preferences about food and where they want to be by voting with movement. Animals of certain species also depend on the group for some of these decisions. In this article, I will discuss 2 such animal species—meerkats and honeybees.

For those who don’t know what a meerkat is, it is a small desert animal of southern Africa which is about the size of a mink or a housecat. They are carnivores, and they travel in packs. When they travel, they practice social distancing and leave up to 30 feet between one another. The pack can consist of 6-19 members. Scientists at the University of Zurich in Switzerland have studied the meerkat and have arrived at some conclusions. First, only about 3 of their members had to “mew” before all heads were up and the group was on the move. Scientists have dubbed this the “quorum response,” according to Dr. Marta Manser of the U. of Zurich. We see the same phenomenon in humans. If one person of a group suggests something, like going out for drinks, and does it in a sufficiently forceful way, and then is joined by a few others who are in agreement, the group decides to do that particular thing. Group hierarchy or status within the group does not seem to influence the action.

The second example is honeybees. Ruled by a queen who is a primary decision maker, she does depend on her scouts to evaluate new homes when the hive becomes too big and must divide in two. Scouts report back to the queen, and then she goes and does an inspection. When she returns to the swarm, she does an elaborate dance which tells the colony about the new site. More scouts go out again. Once all the scouts are in agreement, the swarm makes a move to its new location. Dr. Thomas Seeley, a Cornell University biologist, thinks this behavior also occurs among humans. A significant number in a group must agree on a course of action, before permanent or major change will occur for the entire group.

In conclusion, we animals and insects are not so different from humans. We all share a love of life on this wonderful planet called Earth. (Elizabeth Preston, “Sneezing Dogs, Dancing Bees: How Animals Vote,” The New York Times, March 2, 2020)

Posted in Senior Law News

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