With tens of thousands of deaths attributed to the coronavirus so far worldwide, it isn’t surprising that many people are thinking about creating or updating their Wills or other estate planning documents. While the vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 will recover, the pandemic serves as a good reminder about the importance of documenting wishes for the management and disposition of your estate.
A recent article reported that online legal services providers have seen a spike of 143% in the number of people completing online Wills. Using an online service provider may seem like a smart option when “social distancing” is recommended. However, be careful when doing so; printing a Will or codicil off the internet does not mean that you automatically have a valid legal document.
To be valid in California, a Will must be signed and dated. The testator’s (person creating the Will) signature must also be witnessed by two people who are present and sign the Will at the same time, witness the testator’s signature or acknowledgement, and attest that they believe the testator has the mental capacity to sign a Will.
There are also potential pitfalls with creating online Wills, aside from the mechanics of document execution. If you don’t understand what the software is asking you or inadvertently provide a wrong answer, your estate could be handled very differently from the way you actually wanted. When you work with an estate planning attorney, you can be confident that the document you receive will reflect your wishes and that it will fully comply with legal requirements.
While creating an online Will or codicil may not be the best idea right now, one estate planning step you may be able to take while sheltering in place is confirming your beneficiary designations are up-to-date on your life insurance and retirement accounts. Some providers’ online account or policy portals allow users to review and submit beneficiary changes electronically.
We are open for business and all of us are working during this time! We are all at home but we are taking calls, doing virtual consults and doing everything we would normally do, just not in the office. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns regarding your estate planning needs during this time!