Our country is still battling the spread of a new virus and with that, new questions as to custody exchanges in the event of confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis or suspected exposure. First and foremost, be compliant with your existing Order to the extent possible. This virus is not a reason to keep your child from seeing their other parent. If exact compliance with your Order is not possible, be reasonable in making necessary accommodations to permit shared custody to continue. It’s also key to try to be on the same page regarding best practices. Be prepared to discuss and model good behavior for your child(ren) in both homes including hand washing, wiping down surfaces, wearing a mask, and social distancing.

Be transparent and provide honest information with respect to any suspected or confirmed exposure to the virus and try to agree on what steps you will take to protect your child(ren) from exposure. The courts have provided some guidance in the event of confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis or display of symptoms. If the reporting party has custody at the time, they should maintain custody until the symptoms resolve. If the non-reporting party has custody at the time, they should keep the child(ren) until the other parent has recovered. An exception can be made if parent has work obligation and cannot provide adequate care for the child(ren), in which case the child(ren) should return to the other parent. If there is a temporary pause in your schedule because of diagnosis or displayed symptoms, endeavor to work with each other to maintain a relationship through other means such as Skype, Zoom or Facetime.

Our firm recommends a few different documents as part of a basic estate plan one of which is a Last Will and Testament. This document allows you to provide for what should happen to your probate assets after you pass. Pennsylvania does apply a tax on assets passed through probate or intestacy. The amount of tax depends on the value of the estate as well as the relationship of the beneficiaries to the decedent. Pennsylvania requires that an Inheritance Tax Return is filed with the Department of Revenue within nine (9) months from date of death disclosing all assets that passed through your estate and their values. Debts of the decedent and estate administration expenses can be deducted from total assets prior to determining tax due.

A good estate plan can minimize the tax consequence for your heirs. Presently, gifts can be made in the amount of $15,000 per year without tax assessed. Non-probate assets, i.e. assets with a beneficiary designation such as life insurance policies, are not assessed an inheritance tax. You may consider diversifying your portfolio to hold your assets in a variety of different vehicles. Another option is to place assets in trust during your lifetime. The trust can be drafted such that you can continue to support yourself during your lifetime with the assets held in trust. An irrevocable trust may also prove useful if you have long-term care expenses or need to seek subsidized healthcare. Consult with an experienced attorney to fully understand your options for a suitable estate plan.

Another document to include as part of a basic estate plan is a Power of Attorney. A Power of Attorney allows you to designate an agent to act on your behalf regarding financial matters during your lifetime. A Power of Attorney may be durable or springing. A durable Power of Attorney is effective upon signing meaning your agent can act on your behalf right away without any other prerequisites. In contrast, a springing Power of Attorney does not become effective until the signor has been deemed incapacitated. This is established by verification of two physicians.

An agent is required to act in the best interests of the signor and, to the extent they are aware of any specific desires of the signor, to comply with their desires. Successor agents can be named in the event the primary agent is unwilling or unable to act. Similarly, individuals can be named as co-agents with the requirement they act jointly. Each agent must sign an acknowledgment concerning these fiduciary duties prior to exercising their power. The court can step in and remove an agent where allegations of abuse by an agent are substantiated. The signor can also revoke the power of attorney at any time.

The third document to include as part of your estate plan is a Living Will/Advanced Healthcare Directive. A Living Will allows you to indicate what sort of measures you would like or would not like to the extent the measures would only serve to delay your inevitable death. Specifically, these decisions would come into play if you are in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness, including persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma. If in that situation, you can elect or deny mechanical respiration, cardiac resuscitation, blood products, tube feeding, and dialysis, among other types of treatment.

You can name a surrogate to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to express your own intentions. Your surrogate is limited to the directives in the document. Your surrogate may also have access to your health care records and be able to authorize certain actions on your behalf. For example, to complete insurance forms, sign releases for your health care records, or authorize medication, surgical procedures, or donation of your anatomical parts. Successor surrogates can be named in the event the primary surrogate is unwillingW or unable to act. Similarly, individuals can be named as co-surrogates with the requirement they act jointly. Keep in mind the practical implications of naming individuals that must serve jointly, particularly if they live out-of-state or are estranged from their co-surrogate. Finally, your named surrogate should be someone you trust and you should discuss your intentions with them in advance.