COVID-19 has impacted every facet of our lives, including estate planning. Even as federal regulations weaken, many are still looking to create a plan for their finances if they were to become ill or incapacitated. The process of creating a will and other estate planning documents has adapted slightly in the wake of COVID-19. Here, estate planning attorney Douglas C. Lauenstein discusses the importance of estate planning during these difficult times and how you can put you and your family in a better place if the unthinkable were to happen.
The Importance of Estate Planning
Estate planning is the process of preparing management of an individual’s asset in the event of death or incapacitation. Estate planning includes making a Will, naming an executor and beneficiaries, making funeral arrangements, and setting up trusts and/or making charitable donations to limit estate taxes.
This process is important for any individual with assets to go through. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped the attitude towards estate planning. According to Caring.com, the number of young adults with a Will increased by 63% since 2020. In 2021, 18-34 year-olds are more likely to have a Will than 35-54 year-olds, which is a first for this demographic.
It’s not just the younger demographic that has become more interested in estate planning. One out of three people said that COVID-19 caused them to see a greater need for an estate plan. With this increased motivation to engage in estate planning, it’s important to understand how estate planning has been adapted to be socially distant.
Virtual Will Making
Making a Will in Maryland requires two witnesses signing as witnesses to the Will in front of the testator (the maker of the Will) after the testator has signed to be valid.
With most states imposing stay-at-home orders and socially distancing mandates, executing legally binding documents has become a more virtual process. However, in Maryland a Will must be signed by the testator and witnessed by two people in the presence of the testator. There are no virtual Wills in Maryland.
Virtual Estate Consultation
Today’s technology has allowed for most of the consultation process for estate planning to be done remotely. Videoconference services such as Zoom or Skype allow estate lawyers to connect with clients safely.
In estate consultations, clients typically want to review the following documents:
- A Will to legally name who should inherit their property
- Durable power of attorney for finances that assigns another person to make financial decisions on their behalf
- A healthcare power of attorney
- A living Will to outline medical care in the event of terminal illness
- HIPAA authorization form to consent for someone else to access medical information from a healthcare provider.
While the global pandemic has made the need for these documents to be in line of utmost importance, consulting with your estate lawyer to prepare these documents is an essential part of any estate planning process.
Planning Your Estate During COVID-19
Estate planning during COVID-19 will depend on your circumstances. The Law Office of Douglas C. Lauenstein, P.A. is an essential business. We have remained open throughout the pandemic and some procedures such as in-person meetings were reduced to keep everyone safe and healthy. Now with many people being vaccinated in-person meetings are in greater demand. Contact us today to learn how we can accommodate planning your estate during the COVID-19 pandemic.