Baratta, Russell, & Baratta (“BRB”) would like to thank our clients, friends, and family for the many referrals made to us over the past 23 years. We are continually and eternally grateful for your trust. A referral from a client, colleague, friend or neighbor is the lifeblood of our business. Here are some of the highlights of 2020.
In the year of the Pandemic, Baratta & Russell’s Trusts & Estate Department combined mission with expertise, created new methods of service and took care of our friends, clients and even strangers in a time of uncertainty and need. In most years, people can delay or diminish the importance of estate planning – Not this year. The importance of estate planning was front and center in everyone’s mind – creating a plan for disability, death, or personal or family disruption was critically important.
What stories during the year best illustrate our work and the importance of good planning?
-Was it the single mother health care worker who called and wanted her estate plan finished to make sure her child was protected before she took the risk to return to work?
-Was it the head of a local hospital who met with us remotely in his office to review his own estate plan and explained to us that the music blaring in the background – Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” – was to signal the discharge of a patient off of a COVID ventilator?
-Was it the client who called to advise us that a 92-year-old long-time client, already in Hospice, had contracted COVID to ask if her affairs were in order and then advised us that both her and her husband (a physician) had determined to stay by her bedside regardless of the risk to themselves? Both were at her bedside at her death and both contracted COVID as a result of their decision.
This year we were able to provide our clients with peace of mind about at least one aspect of their life – their estate planning. We had a high demand for estate planning services, which we handled timely and expertly. The challenge was how to do it safely. Our firm adopted an entirely new set of tools to talk to clients about their plans and get them executed. The tools included: Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, telephone meetings, and remote Notaries. We went to clients and visited homes and nursing homes – whatever it took to get clients’ estate planning done and completed effectively and safely.
Unfortunately, we said goodbye to many friends this year who were our estate planning clients. Individuals and families choose our firm for a reason – to create a plan, and when it comes time to execute this plan, to walk along with a grieving spouse and family and to guide them during a time when all seems pointless or clouded. Our job is to lift-up a loved one or family and to make sure that our friends’ affairs were transitioned effectively with care and compassion.
For our clients who had loved ones in or entering nursing homes, it was a particularly difficult year. We met with many clients in nursing homes and, when possible, met with them remotely. It was gut-wrenching in a number of situations. One client that we met with was near-death; we went over her plan and assured her that everything was in good order. She died not too long after our meeting. We worked closely with clients who were unable to see loved ones in the last weeks of their lives. Their anguish was evident and to the extent possible, we provided them whatever little solace that we could – that their affairs were in order.
Our Estate team is led by Kenneth C Russell and includes Jack Sweeney, Maria Loecker, Maureen Russell and Ellen McCann.
OUR PRO-BONO & CHARITABLE WORK
The entire BRB family feels very lucky to have the ability to help others.
In 2020 we continued to focus our energy in helping Laurel House, Philadelphia VIP, The Brain Injury Association of PA, and St. Joseph’s Manor Nursing Home.
In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic the Estate team instituted a program for any friend, client or stranger, to receive a key estate planning document – an Advance Directive for Healthcare. As we wrote: “…we are not doctors, first responders, grocers, makers of N95 masks, researchers or pharmaceutical firms – we are lawyers.” Every person who responded received an updated ADHC.
We believe it is part of our greater purpose to help others in our communities. We are looking forward to continuing these efforts in 2021.