Quarantine May be the Perfect Time to Get Your Estate Plan in Order

Here’s an idea! Remember that estate plan that you said you should get together at some point, but never had time to complete? How about doing it now? It might sound unlikely, but this can actually be the perfect time.

There are a few things that commonly stop people from preparing a will or trust agreement. One of the biggest is time. For most of us, making an estate plan involves some decisions. Who would take care of the kids if we died? Who would I choose to make medical and financial decisions if I was (were?) disabled? What kind of medical treatment would I want? What is the best way to provide for the people in my life? These are issues to consider and discuss with your family. Normally, figuring out a time to discuss these things is tough, but right now, your whole family is available to talk. Really, when are you going to have more time to deal with this?

It may be a tough time to come up with extra money to pay for an estate plan, but many lawyers are willing to work out a deferred payment arrangement right now. After all, they want to stay busy during the crisis too.

Also, you don’t need to go to the lawyer’s office to get it done. Many lawyers can get the information from you in a brief phone meeting. Once the drafts are complete, they can email them, and you can review and comment from home. When complete you can choose to wait to sign the documents until after the crisis. Or, for people who want to cross this job off the list right away, there are options.

Thanks to some quick adjustments by the Governor, Illinois residents can now complete their estate plan without going anywhere. For the duration of the state of emergency, Illinois is allowing people to sign estate documents in front of virtual witnesses and notaries. It’s a little odd at first, but the process is quite easy. The attorney sends you the final documents and has a phone meeting with you to discuss the details. After that, the attorney sets up a Zoom call (or similar) and sends you a link. You click the link and join a conference with the notary and witnesses on your phone or tablet. You then send back the documents, and the witnesses follow up with some standardized procedures to attach their signatures to the document.  

Many of us are looking for ways to come out of the crisis stronger than we were at the beginning. Some are using the time to complete household projects or plant a garden. In this time when we are focusing on how best to protect our families, estate planning is an important topic. Preparing a power of attorney for healthcare, a will or trust and putting your affairs in order are all ways that you can take care of them.

If you have had a nagging feeling about not having a will or trust in place, this may be a great time to get it done. We are here for you and your loved ones during this trying time. Stay safe.

Eric Parker is an attorney at Stotis & Baird Chartered. S&B is based in Chicago but routinely meets with clients at their homes or in the community. In this challenging time we are also conducting meetings by phone and video conference.