Estate Planning during a Global Pandemic
Has the COVID-19 pandemic got you wondering about the health of your estate plans? It’s natural in times of uncertainty and when there’s so much strain in our lives to turn our attention to our affairs and ensuring our loved ones are protected after we are gone. For many on the frontlines of the pandemic and in high-risk groups, this may be a time when they start thinking about updating existing plans or establishing plans for the first time. If you’re in either camp, keep reading for some information and tips on creating a well-rounded estate plan.
Documents in your Estate Planning Arsenal
It can be overwhelming to begin the estate planning process as there seems to be hundreds of different documents that all do something different. Over the last few years, we’ve written blogs on these different types of documents that tell you what they are, what’s included, and ways to ensure your executor/Personal Representative has all the necessary information to protect your assets and your beneficiaries after you’re gone. These documents include (but are not limited to):
- Advanced Directives: a collection of documents that outline your end-of-life care wishes (including a living will and a healthcare power of attorney).
- Will or Trust: A Will is a document that outlines your wishes regarding the distribution of your personal finances and important assets after your passing. A Trust is a separate legal entity that a person sets up to manage his or her assets. Once assets are placed inside a Trust, they fall under the care of a Trustee. The Trustee determines how to properly invest the assets and distributes them when the Trust terminates.
- Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney: A Power of Attorney (POA) is, put simply, a paper that authorizes another person to make decisions on your behalf. A POA may be granted in business settings, family matters, real estate transactions, or medical situations.
Leaving this world behind without a proper plan in place regarding your assets can leave a big mess for your loved ones to clean up. It can lead to court battles, family strife and may mean that your assets don’t get divided fairly or according to what you may have wished.
Notarizing during a Pandemic
Legal documents, including estate planning documents, need to be properly witnessed and notarized in order for them to be binding. In the world of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, getting things notarized can be a bit challenging (notarizations typically happen in-person). However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 49 of the United States have enacted laws to allow for electronic notarizations during the health emergency.
On March 30, 2020 Governor Larry Hogan issued an emergency order that temporarily waives the in-person requirement for notarizing documents in Maryland. This emergency order is to remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency that was enacted in response to COVID-19. The rules regarding witnesses, however, has not changed and these are very specific and all signings should be under the guidance of an attorney.
Your law office will be able to tell you how to find a notary available to perform electronic notarizations (if they don’t have one available on staff).
Let Us Help
The Estate Planning and Probate attorneys at Ferrante, Dill & Hisle, LLC are standing by to help you with all of your estate planning needs. Whether you simply need to update a few things in your existing plan, or you’re starting from the very beginning- give us a call or send us an email and we’ll get started right away! Call partner Jennifer Dill at (410) 535-6100 or send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org today!