Last will requests explode during coronavirus pandemic

Investigators

The COVID-19 pandemic is an event that has made it clear to many how important it is to have a will, but how do you do that in these days of social distancing? 

Because of the pandemic, there has been a surging demand for wills, but beware of the do-it-yourself variety—you may end up with a worthless document.

The mortality rate for COVID-19 suddenly has many folks scrambling to create a will because there are lots of people who don’t have one.

A survey conducted before the pandemic outbreak by caring.com showed 58 percent of all adults do not have a will or trust. 

In a rush, many people are turning to online will making services—which have seen huge upticks in users, but doing it yourself has some huge pitfalls according to Estate Attorney Tim Jones.

“There’s a basic question—are you creating a document that will be accepted by the court?,” said Attorney Jones. “With a will especially, those problems are not discovered until they’re too late to fix yourself.”

And, you’ll need more than a will.

You should have a power of attorney document, a health care proxy and a letter of instruction.

“In a situation like now, power of attorney documents are as important—or even more important than wills,” he said. “If you are alive and can’t handle your own finances or health care decisions—a power of attorney document allows someone to do those things for you without the court getting involved.”

Other important documents you’ll need to have a master list of:

  • All bank accounts/investments and insurance policies along with user names & passwords
  • Info on safe deposit boxes/titles and deeds
  • Your marriage license or divorce papers

With all that’s happening right now, some people ask, “should I do the will now?” Attorney Jones says, it depends on your circumstances.

“Some people are choosing to postpone, for now, to see how things go,” Jones said. “And we have other people saying I need these documents now because I’m vulnerable—like working in the health care field and are more likely to be exposed.”

Lots of estate planning lawyers like Jones are now working remotely with clients and then finding creative ways to get the documents signed—like have a drive-through system for that part of the process.

Remember, no will is valid unless it’s signed, witnessed and notarized.

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