The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every area of life — and estate planning is no exception.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every area of life — and estate planning is no exception. In this article, we’ll cover several key impacts on the industry and provide practical tips on how you can pandemic-proof your estate plan.
Unfortunately, many people have had to experience friends or relatives passing away due to COVID-19. As a result, people are more aware of their own mortality and feel a greater sense of urgency to get their legal affairs in order. For this reason, it makes sense that many estate attorneys are reporting an increase in demand for their services.
This greater awareness of mortality has people paying particular attention to their medical-related legal documents, such as a power of attorney and HIPAA authorization. People have realized how important it is to think about their end-of-life wishes and prepare for the unexpected.
Fewer people are interested in attending face-to-face meetings. Even those who were previously technology-averse have adjusted to the new reality. Instead of commuting to crowded office buildings, consumers are more open to doing business through phone or video calls. Due to this, many attorneys now offer hybrid or completely virtual services.
Additionally, demand has skyrocketed for online resources to help people get their legal affairs in order. Fortunately, the pandemic has given rise to various online services to help people create and update their estate plans from the comfort of their homes.
Laws regarding the permittance of electronic wills and signing capabilities are gaining popularity in several states. Many state governments are enacting legislation allowing estate planning documents to be signed electronically. For example, the State of New York recently voted to make remote online notarizations (RON) permanent — joining thirty-four other states with permanent RON procedures.
Several states enacted temporary remote online notarization measures in response to the pandemic, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. However, these measures are due to sunset — and state legislatures will need to decide whether to let them expire or replace them with permanent RON capabilities.
The pandemic has brought estate planning to the forefront of many people’s minds. There are several essential estate planning documents to consider, no matter what age or life stage you’re in.
If you have young children and are concerned about their care if you become incapacitated, consider naming a guardian. Many people became ill from COVID-19 and were hospitalized from a few days to several weeks or even months. Designating a guardian ensures your children are taken care of if you are hospitalized or pass away.
Digital estate planning should be part of your overall estate planning strategy. A standard will typically won’t account for digital assets such as your social media accounts, electronic files, websites/domain names, and e-commerce accounts like eBay or Amazon. Many people don’t realize a standard will doesn’t typically account for your digital assets. This is why it’s common to add a codicil to your will to outline your wishes for your digital assets.
One of the most common estate planning mistakes is not reviewing your beneficiary designations from time to time. It’s essential to confirm that the beneficiaries listed on your retirement accounts (401ks, IRAs), life insurance, and other non-probate assets are up-to-date. If you don’t want an ex-spouse or estranged child or sibling to have a claim to your wealth when you pass away, make sure to remove them as beneficiaries.
There’s no time like the present to discuss your final wishes with your loved ones. Have an honest conversation about your wishes about your funeral arrangements and other end-of-life decisions, so there is no question about what you would have wanted when the time comes.
Make copies of your estate plan and distribute them to your executor, guardians, and other advocates named in your will. Doing so allows them to ask questions to clarify their role and learn more about your wishes.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it — and the impacts on the estate planning industry are likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.
The pandemic is a stark reminder of how important it is to prepare for the unexpected. Getting your essential estate planning documents in order is one of the best ways to prepare for the curveballs life might throw your way.
Creating an estate plan shouldn’t require multiple face-to-face meetings in a stuffy estate planning office. The pandemic has given rise to online estate plan companies where you can create legally-valid wills, trusts, and other essential legal documents from the comfort of your home.
This post was written by MyAdvocate's team of estate planning attorneys.