This article will attempt to answer basic questions about estate planning during the coronavirus outbreak.
Every individual 18 and over should have a basic estate plan. This has not changed since the coronavirus outbreak. People are now paying greater attention to the need. Most think of estate planning as a task for older adults. That is not accurate. In Wisconsin when a child reaches 18, parents not longer have decision making authority over their children without the proper legal documentation. This topic has been previously discussed in Does My Child in College Need an Estate Plan? Also, spouses are not automatically entitled to make health care decisions for each other.
A basic plan includes a health care power of attorney and living will, a financial power of attorney, and a will or trust. Please follow this link to learn more about these documents. What are the Components of a Basic Estate Plan?
Comprehensive planning for complex estates may not be easily completed while social distancing in still in effect. However, the basic plan documents can still be completed and put in place. Dealing with more complicated issues can be handled later.
For individual with existing plans, revisions to those plans to account for circumstances that have changed can usually be made without difficulty.
Basic planning documents can be created and delivered now. The attorneys that I work with and our staff are finding creative ways to discuss planning options with clients. In most cases, documents not requiring a face to face meeting can be prepared now. If you live in Wisconsin, you may contact me through this site or directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss these options. I want to stress in most cases a face to face meeting is not required.
Most planning can be accomplished by phone or video conferencing. You should be able to have your plan prepared from the comfort of your home. Our firm has access to all the necessary phone and video applications to satisfy your needs.
Once your plan is completed, options for finding a safe way to have those documents signed will be discussed with you. If you have access to a printer, many documents can be forwarded to you as a PDF. If you lack the ability to print your own documents, we can have them printed and mailed to you.
For proper signing of your documents, some banks are providing notarization services in their drive through lanes. Many UPS Stores will provide notary services with an appointment. If necessary, we can have a notary service sent to your location. Certain plan documents require only signatures. No witnessing or notarization is needed. It is essential that you receive legal advice to learn the signature and witnessing requirements of the various plan components. Use extreme caution if you attempt creating your own estate plan. I cannot recommend that course of action. For more information on this topic, please consult: Estate Planning: Should You Do It Yourself?
If a face to face meeting is needed, make sure that all social distancing protocols are followed. Our firm is currently planning for the reopening of our offices. No certain date has been set. Our goal is early June 2020. At the time we do reopen, we plan to follow the then current guidelines. Prior to the office reopening, our entire estate planning team is working remotely to serve our clients.
The first step is to contact an estate planning attorney. I belong to many nationwide and statewide estate planning and elder law groups that have been working diligently on establishing protocols for safe estate planning. Make sure you are comfortable that firm you work with is serious about protecting your safety. I assure you that our firm is taking this outbreak very seriously.
Until no longer necessary, our firm plans to implement the following precautions:
- Masks must be worn before you are allowed to enter our offices (our firm will provide)
- Hand sanitizer will be used and gloves will then be worn (our firm with provide)
- Proper distancing
- Use of your own pen or make sure all pens we provide are only used by one person and not shared
- Surfaces will be disinfected prior to and in between meetings
- Temperatures checked before start of meeting
- Only essential participants allowed in the meeting room
- Papers shall be passed between participants only as necessary
- Meetings shall be kept as short as possible with use of phone and video for follow-up questions
Estate Planners are doing their best to provide essential estate planning services during these difficult times. Obstacles exist now due to the coronavirus outbreak that did not exist at the end of 2019. Please contact me if you want to explore creative ways to get your estate plan created or updated.