The same question keeps coming up and the answer has gotten easier. Yes, you can certainly complete your estate plan during the coronavirus quarantine in many states as a result of executive orders, like the ones in Illinois and Missouri. Kiplinger’s recent article entitled “How to Get Your Estate Plan Done While Under Coronavirus Quarantine” says that these isolation orders create unique issues with your ability to effectively establish or modify your estate plan.
The core documents for an estate plan are intended to oversee the management and distribution of your assets, after you pass or in the event you are incapacitated. Each document has requirements that must be met to be legally effective. Let’s look at some of these documents. Note that there’s proposed federal legislation that would permit remote online notarization, and Illinois and Missouri have passed orders to allow notarization utilizing audio visual technology.
Will. Every state has its own legal requirements for a will to be valid, and most require two disinterested witnesses. Having two witnesses present for a will signing was nearly impossible to accomplish following the shelter-in-place orders. On April 6, 2020, Missouri Governor Parson issued Executive Order 20-08 suspending the requirement of personal appearance before a notary public and allowing notarization to be performed through audio-video technology. Under this important executive order, lawyers are able to continue helping Missourians complete their estate planning documents without requiring in-person contact.
Power of Attorney. This document designates an individual to make financial decisions regarding your assets and financial responsibilities, if you’re unable to do so. This can include issues regarding retirement benefits, life and medical insurance and the ability to continue payments to persons financially dependent on you. The durable general power of attorney is typically notarized. This can become a crucial document if you are in a coma or incapacitated.
Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directive. This document states whether you want your life extended by life support systems and if you want extraordinary measures to be taken. It may state that you wish to have a DNR (Do Not resuscitate) in place. A durable power of attorney for healthcare will give the individuals you choose the ability to make whatever medical decisions you specify on your behalf. Having end-of-life directives that you make is another essential aspect of this document. Creating these advance directives regarding future health case decisions can help ensure that a person’s wishes are met and relieve family members from having to make difficult decisions in an already stressful time.
HIPAA Authorization. Some states have their own medical privacy laws with separate requirements, and most powers of attorney provide that the designated persons can act, if you’re unable to do so. Financial institutions typically require confirming letters from your doctor that you’re unable to act on your own behalf. To be certain that this agent can act on your behalf if needed, they should be given written access to see your medical information.
With the pandemic, these requirements can be fluid and may change quickly. Be sure to work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Reference: Kiplinger (March 30, 2020) “How to Get Your Estate Plan Done While Under Coronavirus Quarantine”