This unprecedented time of uncertainty has impacted all facets of our lives. We have had to adjust how we live our lives and work each day, and proper estate planning has become even more essential.
Here are a few things to consider during this era of social distancing.
First, if you have estate planning documents already—a Will and/or trust, Powers of Attorney for Assets and/or Healthcare, and Advanced Healthcare Directive (Living Will)—now is a good time to review your documents to make sure they are in line with your current wishes. Just knowing where you are keeping your documents is a good primary step, as well as informing your named executor and agents where they can be found.
For a Will or trust: have you named all of your desired beneficiaries? Have there been additional children and/or grandchildren born since you executed your documents, and are they properly addressed in your plan? How about your named executor or trustee, are they still the best people for those roles?
Likewise for your Powers of Attorney, are the agents you named in your documents still the most appropriate individuals? If it has been a long time since you executed a Power of Attorney, you may have chosen agents who are now much older, and a more appropriate choice may be available. For your Healthcare Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive, you may consider contacting your primary physician and asking whether you could provide a copy now for their records.
In terms of executing new documents, social distancing has presented many challenges. In Pennsylvania, Powers of Attorney require the presence of two witnesses and a notary. Unfortunately, this presence cannot be remote. Moreover, the witnesses cannot be the agents named in the document.
While the legislature is considering many changes for virtual notarization, executing new Powers of Attorney at this time is difficult without risking health and/or compliance with government orders to stay at home and apart.
Contrary to Powers of Attorney, a will in Pennsylvania can be valid without witnesses or a notary. In this way, executing Wills brings much greater flexibility.
We have already faced many challenges in just a few weeks, and there are undoubtedly many more ahead. If you have questions about how to address your estate planning needs at this time, please feel free to reach out to one of our attorneys to discuss your individual circumstances.
Planning Now! is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.