With COVID-19 affecting more and more Americans, people across the country are scrambling to set up wills and end-of-life directives online. Over the last two weeks, online will companies have seen an explosion in users, according to the article, “Coronavirus Pandemic Triggers Rush by Americans to Make Online Wills,” published by CNBC.com. This is concerning for several reasons as lack of information can drive bad decisions and costly estate planning mistakes. There are many things to consider before doing a DIY will.
As online wills grow in popularity, estate and elder lawyers increasingly caution against using them, for several reasons.
- Will the documents be legally valid? Since most of these do-it-yourself wills are created and executed without any oversight from an attorney, a larger number of wills may not be executed in compliance with the proper will formalities, and that could end up invalidating the will.
- Do you fully understand the questions and consequences of your answers? There are many nuances in estate planning, as well as a good bit of legal jargon. Confusion over the question or the consequences of a decision can result in costly mistakes … and could even mean your will won’t hold up to a challenge in court.
- What about asset protection? There is more to estate planning than just giving your stuff away after you die. How you transfer ownership of your assets can mean the difference between a protected inheritance and legacy for many generations … or the squandering or loss of a person’s life’s work within a few years … or months … after they pass away.
- Is there any planning for health care decisions? Appointing a trusted family member or friend to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot make the decisions yourself is critical. Proper estate planning should include appointing someone to make health care decisions as well as providing your health care directives on end-of-life decisions. Burdening your loved ones with these decisions is sometimes too emotional challenging.
As COVID-19 keeps people home, meeting with a lawyer to create an estate plan should become a priority. In most states, a lawyer’s services have been deemed “essential,” even during stay-at-home orders. Many lawyers are doing everything they can to make our services as easy and convenient for people as possible, including meeting over telephone, online video services and other innovative ways to ensure you get the planning you need while complying with all safety measures.
Resource: Coronavirus Pandemic Triggers Rush by Americans to Make Online Wills, https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/25/coronavirus-pandemic-triggers-rush-by-americans-to-make-online-wills.html