There has been an explosion in the numbers of Americans rushing to make their will online. Understandably, the coronavirus pandemic has created the scramble to set up wills and end-of-life directives. However, online do it yourself (DIY) wills are often deemed invalid as they do not comply with all of the legal requirements of the state where they were executed. According to Caring.com, the prevalence of will and estate planning has been on the decline since 2017 but this trend is quickly reversing itself with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
So, who needs a will? Ask yourself if you care who gets your property or money if you die? If you are not married, do you know who will get everything by law? Are those the persons you would prefer to inherit, or do you have others in mind? If you are married, there a certain item you’d like to leave a certain specific person before the rest goes to the spouse and children? If you have minor children, do you care who will act as their legal guardian? The answer is anyone, married or single, anyone with children or anyone with assets needs a properly executed will. Wills are governed by state law. Your will should reflect your wishes in the language and format required by the state in which you live for it to be valid.
Many law offices are turning to teleconference with their clients to address social distancing protocols while still providing legal services such as writing a will. Businesses like Zoom are experiencing a quadrupling of daily users. Part of this significant increase includes hosting secure attorney/client meetings for will preparations. We have been successfully conducting consultations over Zoom on an almost daily basis during the pandemic. The process is relatively easy, and clients tune in from wherever they’re waiting out the storm. If you and your loved ones had a chance to escape to Florida or the Poconos, for example, then the consultation could go on as planned. All you need is a working computer or mobile phone with camera and sound, and an understanding that there has never been a more pressing time to plan your estate.
The importance of an attorney guiding you through the process of creating a will cannot be understated as they understand the nuances of how things need to be written. Once your will is complete, it must be correctly notarized as mistakes made in the will-signing process can potentially invalidate your will. Your attorney will guide you through the signing process and could involve signing during a video conference.
Beyond the creation of a will, many Americans are increasingly concerned about their powers of attorneys, health care agents, living wills, and end-of-life directives. These “life documents,” as they are active while you are alive, are equally as important as your will. Named executors, successors, beneficiaries, and power of attorney agents, sometimes referred to as “attorney-in-fact”, should have several back-up representatives as the mortality rate due to the coronavirus remains unknown.
According to research in a recent New York Times report, health care workers are more likely to contract COVID 19 than the average person. During this pandemic, many doctors and other medical professionals are rushing to have their wills drawn up. In addition to doctors, anyone on the front lines in the fight against COVID 19, from hospital custodians to nurses to EMS responders, should either make a will or review and possibly update their existing one. However, the truth is no matter what your profession or likelihood of contracting this virus, you should have a properly executed will during this time of considerable uncertainty.