The essential documents families want is not only a will or a trust, but clients are now much more concerned about their powers of attorneys and health care documents such as their living wills. It is possible to go online to get your estate planning documents without a lawyer, however, there are strict state laws that govern the documents and the execution of the documents. It’s highly cautioned to do any legal work without an attorney because it obviously has a major impact on your estate and person while disabled or upon death. To give an example, each state has execution requirements such as two witnesses and or a notary and often a physical presence requirement. Our state recently passed an emergency provision a few weeks ago allowing for remote witnessing. We are now having witnesses view by video conference the signature and mailing us the document once signed or having a courier pick it up following social distancing precautions.
I’ve recently had to speak to several families helping them not become paralyzed by the need to have every estate planning document out there but setting up the essential documents as best as they can today and then we can always review and make changes or additions in the future. We simply do not know what tomorrow is going to bring. The need to plan is evident but clients are wanting it done right away and estate planning can be complex especially in this deadly pandemic. I recommend having three basic documents: a will or trust, a power of attorney, and a medical directive. The important thing is to have your legal protections in place today. More and more clients are keeping their estate planning documents which makes storage and access vital. It is recommended that all appropriate family members have access to essential information such as the location of your estate planning documents, names and contact information of key people and professionals. It’s also recommended you store your documents in a fireproof box or safe. Nowadays, clients are scanning their powers of attorneys and health care documents in order to keep them saved on the cloud or in their own personal email accounts. I also see a benefit in keeping a journal of what is owned, passwords, and other personal notes for loved ones to follow that relate to your estate planning. At the end of the day, planning in the midst of this health care crisis can help bring some peace of mind and lessen the burden on your loved ones. When I consult with the other attorneys on my team, the advice is always the same: have a family meeting now, plan your estate today, and work with an attorney who is passionate about your legal protections. My hope is the virus will go away, and in the meantime, we all do our part in planning for our future.