The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many people more carefully considering their own mortality and the need to develop an estate plan. According to December 2019 study by Caring.com, only 48% of people age 55 or older have a will or estate planning documents. For those between ages 35 and 54, only 27% have estate planning documents in place.
If the pandemic has spurred you toward developing an estate plan for the first time, you may need to work around some of the stay-at-home requirements and reduced hours or closures of law offices.
Here is how the pandemic is changing some of the steps associated with the estate planning process.
Stay-at-home orders and social distancing has caused some law firms to close their doors to clients, at least temporarily. However, estate planning attorneys are still finding ways to serve their clients in need. Virtual consultations through phone, email, texting, and video conference has allowed people to work with attorneys to create their estate plans.
Online Notarization and Witnessing
One of the challenges associated with creating a will during a pandemic is the fact that most states require adult witnesses and notarization for wills to be considered valid. Social distancing can make it difficult to gather the necessary parties, especially in states that require witnesses to be “disinterested parties,” or people who do not stand to inherit anything. Because disinterested parties are less likely to be immediate relatives, it may become more difficult to locate willing individuals.
As a result, states have started to offer greater flexibility with online notarization during the pandemic. Here in Massachusetts, attorneys and paralegals may notarize documents using video conferencing during the pandemic.
Highest Priority Documents
During the pandemic, people who have not developed an estate plan may want to focus on these four highest-priority documents first.
- a will
- a healthcare power of attorney
- a living will / advance healthcare directives
- a durable power of attorney for finances
There are certain types of estate planning documents that will require slightly different approaches during a pandemic situation. For example, your living will might typically include instructions about whether or not you would like to continue receiving care if you must be supported by a ventilator. For COVID-19 treatment, however, ventilator usage is a common means of treatment and does not necessarily mean you have a negative prognosis.
Adjusting the language in a living will to allow for use of a ventilator in the pandemic is an important step to take to cover your bases.
For more information about some of the unique aspects of creating an estate plan during a global pandemic, contact us today at Baker Law Group.
About Baker Law Group
Baker Law Group specializes in Elder Law, Estate Planning and Estate Administration. View attorney profiles.
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