COVID-19 estate planning

COVID-19 Estate Planning FAQ & Resources

During uncertain times, it’s natural for people to start thinking about whether they have their affairs in order and if their loved ones and assets are protected should something happen to them. While we think estate planning should always be top-of-mind, it’s especially pertinent during these unprecedented times.

Our mission has always been to help protect every American family by making estate planning simple, affordable and accessible. To further that mission, we’ve created this resource guide to provide helpful information that answers common questions you may have about setting up an estate plan, updating documents online, how to make your documents valid and more. If you have a question that isn’t answered below, please reach out to us at support@trustandwill.com or chat with our team directly and we’ll do our best to get you the information you’re looking for.

Stay safe, be well, and wash your hands!

– Team Trust & Will

UPDATED 4/10 States currently allowing online notary include: WA, WI, IA, NY, AZ more expected soon. We’ll update this list as we have more information.

Important Estate Planning documents to have

We recommend, at minimum, you have the below estate planning documents created:

  • Will or Trust
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Living Will or Health Care Directives
  • HIPAA Authorization
  • Guardianship Designation (if you have children)

What is actually required to create an estate plan?

Trusts:

  • Best practice is to have your Trust notarized. If it is not possible to have a Trust notarized, most states will recognize a Trust as valid with just your signature.
  • Most states do not require witnesses. NY, DE, and LA require that a Trust either have witnesses or be notarized. 

Wills:

  • Best practice is to sign your Will with two witnesses and a notary. If that is not possible, most states will recognize a Will as valid as long as you sign with two witnesses. 
  • Notarization can be extremely helpful to prove that the Will is legally valid, so notarization is strongly suggested, even if not required.
  • Only the original Will is valid; copies may have no effect.

Health Care Directive / Living Will:

  • Best practice is to have your Health Care Directive notarized. If it is not possible to have your Health Care Directive notarized, most states will recognize a Health Care Directive as valid with just your signature.
    • NC, MO, MN, and WV require a Health Care Directive be notarized.
  • Notarization is strongly suggested as some medical providers may only accept a document that is notarized.
  • The original document is best, but copies are generally accepted by medical providers

HIPAA Authorization:

  • Best practice is to have your HIPAA Authorization notarized. If it is not possible to have your HIPAA AUthorization notarized, most states will recognize a HIPAA Authorization with just your signature. 
  • Notarization is not required, but is strongly suggested to ensure the document is accepted by medical providers.
  • The original document is best, but copies are generally accepted by medical providers

Power of Attorney:

  • Best practice is to sign your Will with two witnesses and a notary. 
    • Most states require notarization.
    • Most states do not require witnesses. FL, PA, IL, AZ, MD, SC, LA, KY, OK, CT, MS, DE, and VT require witnesses. MI, WA, and SD require either witnesses or a notary
  • Notarization is strongly suggested as some third parties may only accept a document that is notarized. 

Can I create a Will online?

Absolutely! Creating a Will or Trust-based estate plan online is now legal in 49 states in the US (sorry, North Carolina). That said, each state may have slightly different rules and documents which is why it’s important to confirm that your estate plan is custom for your specific state (note – all Trust & Will documents are state-specific).

Relatively speaking, Online Wills are a fairly new concept in the world of Estate Planning. It’s true that there are very trustworthy, authoritative sources out there to help you create an effective and adequate Online Will. But you need to be careful about which DIY online company you use to create your Will or any other Estate Planning documents. 

Is my online Will legally valid?

Steps to make your online Will or estate plan valid:

  1. Print your documents or elect to have them shipped directly to you
  2. Sign your documents in front of two independent adult witnesses. During these uncertain times, some states may be allowing for online witnesses. It is recommended that your witnesses NOT be listed as beneficiaries in your estate plan or relatives.
  3. Have your documents notarized which makes the process of proving the validity of your Will in court upon your passing, much easier for your beneficiaries. Due to COVID-19, more states are allowing for online notarization than ever before, with more expected to follow suit. 
  4. Store the original copies of your documents in a secure place and notify your executor of the location

Notary during COVID-19

If you’d like to move forward with notarizing your documents during the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have a few options to choose from.

In-Person Notary

Many banks are open and providing necessary services. Most banks offer notary services. UPS Stores, AAA locations, and Postal Annex stores may also have notaries if they are open. It’s always best to call to confirm availability before visiting. 

Online Notary – Notarize.com

Online notarization is usually not available for Wills, but may be an option for Trusts and healthcare documents. Some states (WI, IA, NY) have passed emergency orders to allow online notarization for Wills and estate planning documents. We expect this trend to continue and recommend you check with your local state as to whether or not online notarization is allowed for your Will.

How can I get my Will right away?

All Trust & Will documents including Guardianship, Wills and Trusts, as well as Power of Attorney and Health Directives which are included in your Will or Trust purchase, are available for immediate download after purchase if you choose to not have your documents shipped. Shipping may be slightly delayed due to the current conditions, so downloading your documents may make more sense for your situation if you’d like your estate plan immediately.

Additional Resources

Online Notary: https://www.notarize.com/

Community Support: https://aarpcommunityconnections.org/helpful-resources/

Government Resources: www.cdc.gov

Lifestyle: https://aarpmutualaid.org/

Small Business Owners: Google Ads aid availability

This situation is truly unprecedented and many states are taking action to make it easier to put a plan in place. We will try to keep this updated as details change, but you should verify any updates applicable to your state. This is intended as education and not as legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you have legal questions.