The Coronavirus Pandemic has placed the fragility of life front and center for many people. It is a harsh reminder that each day is a gift and an unexpected event can limit the days we have on this Earth.
A byproduct of this realization is that many Americans are taking steps to plan their estates. However, jumping headfirst into estate planning can be rather intimidating. You have to make important decisions about whether to create a will, a trust (or trusts), power of attorney for handling financial matters, power of attorney for medical decisions, and so forth. If you are interested in planning your estate, here is some advice on specific steps to take.
Decide Whether It Makes Sense to Work with an Estate Planning Professional
If you are a newcomer to estate planning or have very few assets, it may make sense to utilize an online platform to create a basic estate plan. However, if you a fairly large number of assets or unique family circumstances (e.g., a child with special needs), then you should strongly consider working with an experienced trust and estates attorney.
Invest the Time and Resources in Planning Your Estate Correctly
Rushing through the process of planning your estate can make the situation worse, not better for your loved ones. For example, if you create a living trust, but fail to take the time to fund the trust and re-title certain assets, that estate planning instrument does not offer much guidance or assistance to your loved ones in the wake of your passing, according to a great article published by Forbes. This is why it is important to invest the time and resources to ensure your estate plan is accurate, detailed and legally valid.
Traditional Estate Planning May Not Be Realistic Due to COVID-19
If you opt for a “traditional” estate planning experience where you meet, in-person, with an attorney and have a document signing where a notary public and witnesses are present, you are likely to be disappointed. The COVID-19 pandemic has altered numerous aspects of life, and the estate planning process sis no different.
Meeting in-person with a lawyer is difficult and carries an inherent risk to your health and safety. This is why many trust and estate attorneys are meeting with clients and offering legal services via Zoom, FaceTime and other video conferencing option.
The document-signing process has also been more challenging in some cases because of states’ witness and notary requirements. To make things easier during the COVID-19 pandemic, many states are now allowing for remote notarization. With remote notarization, a signer appears before a notary at the time of document signing using video conferencing technology. In fact, more than 20 states have enacted remote notarization laws, a portion of which are in the process of being implemented or soon will be, according to the National Notary Association.
Even in states where remote notarization is not allowed (e.g., California), laws have been passed to allow for mobile notaries. If you use a mobile notary, a professional will come to your home wearing gloves and a mask. The document signing can take place outside. Though, with a mobile notary, there remains the need for an additional witness who is not a beneficiary in your estate plan.
Research is Key
Regardless of which estate planning path you choose, research is critically important. For example, if you are planning to work with an estate planning law firm, conduct a thorough online search for client reviews and reviews provided by fellow practitioners. Check to see if any attorneys with the firm have been sanctioned or publicly reprimanded by the state bar association. Furthermore, when meeting with an attorney of the prospective law firm, making sure to ask specific questions about their process, including:
- How the firm manages document review for your estate plan
- How the signing process works
- The expected timing to complete a review of your estate and formalize the plan
Contact InSight Law Today
If you are looking for a respected and knowledgeable trust and estate planning law firm, contact InSight Law. Our law firm utilizes a unique approach to estate planning in which we offer clients an array of ongoing resources and tools to make their estate plans complete and detailed. Schedule a meeting today by contacting our office at 703-654-6019.