On Managing Personal Loss During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the number of COVID deaths decline in NY, it’s little comfort to the families who experience losses each day. Death is always hard and not made better because others experience it too. In the midst of the pandemic Paul Simon’s lyric came to mind: “nothing but the dead and dying in my little town.” It’s a coming of age tune about wanting to leave the old ways of a small town. But is it so different from wanting to put COVID behind us and move to a better future?

At our law firm, we’ve started to hear from people suffering very personal losses. “My mother died last week of Covid.” “What is probate?“ “Do I have to do anything?” Some are direct and inform me they are shopping for the best fees. Others are trying to navigate out of a state of hopeless overwhelm. Sometimes the mechanics of preparing for probate can be a good diversion from deeper thoughts and sadness.

Each of us approaches loss in our own way. During this time, it feels even more difficult because we are bombarded with so many divergent images – from headlines about essential workers, crowd scenes of those not observing social distancing and protests to get back to work. The enormity and uncertainty of the crisis is everywhere. But when it comes to death, that is much more personal regardless of the cause.

Facing probate can be daunting and yet when you are guided by the right lawyer, it can be grounding. Some who experience loss may have to face probate right away because an executor must be appointed to have access to assets to keep the family afloat. In other cases, there may be no rush and your time is better spent sitting still and feeling your feelings and mourning your loss. There is no one size fits all.

Dealing with death is a process, and so is probate. The law has rules in place to follow – whether a person has a will when they die, or not. If you have a will, you can state your wishes about many things – from selecting a guardian for a minor child, setting up a trust to safeguard money or naming the recipient of your precious Rolex. If you die without a will, you let the law’s default setting determine how things work out.

If you’re caught at some stage in this process and want help or information, please feel free to contact us at (914) 923-1600 or susan@susanparkerlaw.com. We’ll do our best to tell you what you need to know. It’s hard not to feel the tragedy in “our little town”. And yet it was heartening to re-read the opening song lyrics: “In my little town I grew up believing God keeps his eye on us all.”

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