COVID 19 & Estate Plans

One thing I discovered during the pandemic is many people realized that they were not going to live forever, and they needed an estate plan.  COVID 19 did not make planning and executing estate plans easy.  Many high-risk workers and essential workers were eager to get their plan in place.  Many older people wanted to implement changes in their current estate plans. Accomplishing document signing during the pandemic has proved challenging as Wills require two disinterested adult witnesses and power of attorney for health care and living wills do not require witnesses if the documents are signed before a Notary Public. I became creative in helping my clients sign their estate planning documents while adhering to COVID protocols.

COVID-19 has highlighted the necessity of a well-thought-out estate plan.  At the same time, the pandemic has made it more difficult for clients to get these documents that are necessary in place.  I have attempted to be creative in solving this current problem while also maintaining “social distance”.  Under Ohio law, a Will must be signed in the physical presence of two disinterested adult witnesses.  Other estate planning documents, such as Living Wills or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care do not require witness so long as the documents are signed in front of a notary public.  Ohio has not created any new legislation during the pandemic that would change Ohio’s in-person witnessing requirement, even though electronic Will witnessing is under review.  In 2019 Ohio allowed for Ohio notarizations to be performed electronically by special authorized online notaries. Some attorneys are witnessing the documents outside or even reviewing the documents via Zoom and then having the clients obtain their own witnesses.