There has been increased interest in wills and trusts since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Families who have put off planning are now realizing the importance of getting it done. At the same time, some traditional avenues for estate planning are shut down. Live seminars are out, and in-person meetings may seem risky. Is it even possible to get a will or trust in place right now? The answer may surprise you. Not only is it possible, but there may never have been a better time for getting a will or living trust in place.
What is virtual estate planning?
First, let's talk about what we mean by virtual estate planning. It's important to understand the difference between an online will or trust and a plan that is created for your family by a lawyer. Online documents are the legal equivalent of DIY. They are like going to WebMD instead of a doctor. When we talk about virtual estate planning, we are talking about real legal services, not online forms.
In our office, a virtual estate plan starts with a free 15-minute phone call with one of our attorneys to determine whether your family and our firm are a good fit for each other. The next step is an on-demand webinar designed to help you identify the issues that are most important to your family.
Our estate planning design meeting is where it all comes together. These can be completed in a video conference or, if necessary, by phone.
The final product of your estate planning must be tangible, not virtual only. Your documents must be signed, witnessed, and notarized for your plan to be effective. After your plan is complete, you will receive your signed original documents plus a three-ring binder with extra copies and written instructions on how to maintain your plan.
How is virtual estate planning easier?
No one is happy about the restrictions that have come with COVID-19, but there have been some silver linings. As it turns out, virtual estate planning has been a great experience for clients. Our on-demand webinars eliminate the need to travel and can be viewed at any time. Most importantly, they make it possible for us to educate our clients about important decisions at a time when live seminars are not an option.
Holding design meetings by video conference has also been a success. Like the webinars, video conference meetings eliminate travel time, which is especially helpful for clients living in Baldwin County or more remote areas of Mobile County. But what has really surprised us is how much more comfortable people seem when they plan from home. Design meetings may bring up sensitive issues like troubled children or decisions about end-of-life health care. Clients seem more relaxed when they are in the familiar environment of their home.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has given us some extraordinary options about how to get your documents signed. Governor Kay Ivey has issued an emergency proclamation that temporarily allows documents to be witnessed and notarized by video conference. We still prefer to hold signing meetings at our office while taking measures to minimize contact. But if your health or other circumstances require it, remote signing meetings may be an option.
Will you continue to offer virtual estate planning after COVID-19?
Many elements of our virtual estate planning process were already in place before COVID-19, which has made it easier for us to adapt. It is still too early for anyone to say what the “new normal” will look like. Based on our experience so far, there are many aspects of virtual estate planning that have been a win-win for our clients and our firm. The experience we are gaining is likely to result in more convenient options for our clients well into the future.
How do I get started with virtual estate planning?
Getting started is easy. Contact our Client Services Coordinator, Kelly Dunn, at 431-6014 to schedule a free 15 minute estate planning phone consultation!