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How Covid-19 has Impacted Estate Planning in Ohio

How Covid-19 has Impacted Estate Planning in Ohio

2 Sep 2021

The ongoing pandemic has significantly changed estate planning in Ohio and beyond. If you’ve been contemplating estate planning, drawing up a will, or any other essential component of planning for the future, but haven’t done so due to Covid-19, it may be a relief to know there are a few ways you can still get it done professionally.

Traditionally, a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner (CFP®) and estate planning attorney in Ohio would collaborate to spend time face to face; however, estate planning during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented its own challenges and we’ve had to take measures to keep us safe even more so than in the past, which has meant putting off important financial matters.

Let’s dive into the basics of estate planning during the COVID era.

Estate Planning Can Be Performed From Home

Though the days of meeting with an Ohio CFP® professional and estate planning attorney in-person have not been completely phased out, they are certainly less frequent. COVID has set the stage for estate planning professionals to interact with clients from home.  Video conferencing tools combined with traditional phone calls between clients and estate planning professionals allow for the creation, updating and finalization of the estate plan.

These professionals work remotely and can be reached for consultations and discussions through all sorts of different mediums.  A CFP® professional or estate planning attorney can share estate planning documents through email or regular mail.

 

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It is even possible to digitally sign legal documents through a web-connected device.  However, the specific document in question along with the nuanced approach of your CFP® professional, estate planning attorney or other professional involved in the process will ultimately determine how documents are signed.  Some estate planning specialists insist on clients signing legal documents in-person at the office while practicing social distancing to the greatest possible extent.

If your signature is necessary on an estate planning document, it might also be possible for your attorney or CFP® professional to forward instructions pertaining to an out-of-office signing with socially distanced witnesses.  In fact, some estate planning attorneys are even providing clients with drive-up estate planning document signings.

Trusts During the Pandemic

Trust notarization requirements have changed during the ongoing corona virus pandemic.  The majority of Ohio estate planning professionals include notarization when a client signs a trust, but it might not be required as formal requirements are proving flexible and dynamic as the pandemic continues.  Clients are encouraged to sign trusts on their own.  A notary can formally acknowledge this signature when social distancing is no longer recommended.  However, if the trust includes real estate, the recording of the deed will require the presence of an on-site notary to witness the signature and the ensuing formal proceedings.

The Notarization of Wills is Also Changing

Will notarization is no longer an absolute necessity in some states.  Though plenty of Ohio estate planning attorneys insist on wills being notarized, there is somewhat of a grey area in this part of the law during the ongoing pandemic.  What matters most is that the will is proven to be valid when the individual passes away.  Witnesses who observe you sign your will can prove it is a legitimate will by signing affidavits in front of a notary after the pandemic ends.

Ohio and 22 other states permitted remote web-based notarization prior to the pandemic.  The state will likely prove even more flexible now that the pandemic is raging on for the 15th straight month.  Ohio legislators and estate planning professionals recognize there is a growing shift to web-based notarization.

Estate planning documents and other legal documents have the potential to be electronically notarized as the pandemic continues.  Be sure to consult with your estate planning professional in Ohio for the latest updates on the nuances of the state’s rules pertaining to estate planning document signatures, notarization, and so forth as we persevere through the Covid-19 pandemic.

It must be noted that online notarization is still a work in progress.  The transition from in-person notarization to online notarization is in its infancy, meaning it might not be available when you begin your estate planning or it might have a few bugs.  Be patient, and lean on your Ohio estate planning specialists for guidance and your estate planning documents will ultimately be recognized as official legal documents.

Virtual Estate Planning Consultations are Here to Stay

Above all, estate planning in Ohio has changed in the context of interpersonal interactions.  Meeting with an Ohio CFP® professional, estate planning attorney, accountant or other professional in-person in an office setting is now the exception to the norm.  Videoconferencing will likely continue to be quite popular even after the pandemic ends.

Most medical experts agree that interacting through online videoconferencing in real-time is not only efficient but safer for everyone. Upon occasion, people who do estate planning in Ohio, might have you drop by the office after the pandemic winds down for the execution ceremony and in-person signature.

The Global Epidemic Shouldn’t Make Us Abandon Our Long- Term Goals

Estate planning was already a daunting process for some, and the pandemic has only exacerbated the sense of uncertainty and fear that many people are feeling. The Covid-19 pandemic has the potential to drag on for years or even indefinitely in some form or another.

This novel disease has permanently changed the way we do things. The State of Ohio has been able to adapt in a way which allows people to continue to make preparations to protect wealth through estate planning.

In other words, don’t let something like a pandemic get in the way of planning and creating your estate.  If there have been significant life developments or changes which require revising an existing estate, by taking certain steps to protect you and other people you may meet with, you can still accomplish your estate planning goals.

This is a unique period of time we live in. Most Ohio estate planning professionals already have a Covid safety plan in place, and are willing to make the estate planning process as smooth and safe as possible. The ongoing pandemic should not prevent you from planning for the future and creating an estate plan that safeguards your assets.

By using non-contact technology, estate planning during the pandemic is easier than you might have initially assumed. Use this period of uncertainty as an opportunity to develop a sound estate plan remotely, and you can rest easy knowing your loved ones can maintain their quality of life should you become incapacitated or pass away prematurely.

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More About the Author: E. Michael McGervey, CFP®, CRPC®

Mike is passionate and skilled at helping clients solve complex financial challenges. He’s known for his thoughtful communication, educational approach, and exceptional customized service. Mike has been a sought-after source for financial television, magazines, and newspapers looking for insightful analysis. His expertise has been featured by CNBC, FOX Business and...