Estate Planning and Social Distancing

Estate Planning and Social Distancing

Prior to social distancing my firm’s procedure for drafting and finalizing a client’s estate plan went something like this. I met with clients a first time to gather information; then created a first draft of their documents; next I met with them again to review their documents; and lastly I met with them a third time to finalize their estate plans.

If the stay-in-place order has forced you to address “what if” scenarios which were previously unthinkable. So, after you’ve cleaned out all your closets, and completed your fifteenth jigsaw puzzle; please consider getting an estate plan in place. If you already have your plan review it to see if it needs updating.

Since the stay at home order, I’ve modified the way I do things which will allow you to create and put into place your estate plan, without every having to leave your home.
Here’s how things have changed for you to keep in mind.

A) Most estate planning work is done at home.

You may not be able to physically meet with me, but we can still create, update and finalize your estate plan. I’m available through email, telephone and video conferencing to advise you. Once I draft your documents, I’ll either send them to you by email or through snail mail, for your review. Since I use USPS priority mail, your package will have a tracking number.

B) Use the time to get your estate planning house in order.

Chances are by now you’ve had time to think through some issues you have placed on the back burner. Use this time and take advantage by addressing your estate plan while these issues are foremost in your mind.  

C) Remote Notarization.

Governor Polis signed an emergency executive order on March 28, 2020, which removes the physical presence requirement for notarial events. The new order enables a notary to adhere to social distancing requirements, by allowing the notary to video record notarial act. Since I’m a notary I’ll be able to watch you sign your estate planning documents through video conferencing, you’ll scan your signature pages over to me, I’ll sign and stamp your documents, and scan them back to you.  Wills need to be placed in the mail for notarization.

D) No witnesses required. (with one exception)

As part of my practice I’ve always had my clients sign their wills, their health care power of attorney and their living wills signed in front of witnesses to substantiate the signer’s capacity as well as the document’s reliability.

Under Colorado Law however, a will to be valid must be in writing, signed, and either: signed by at least two individuals, who witnessed the signing of the will or acknowledged by the testator before a notary public.

The advantage of having a your will witnessed is limited to formal testacy proceedings. Since Colorado allows for informal probate proceedings, there is no longer a necessity of witness testimony.

Therefore, having your will remotely notarized without witnesses creates a will which will be admitted into probate.

Additionally, a will does not have to be witnessed at the time of signing, but rather before the will becomes operative, which in reality, is the death of the testator. After the stay-in-place order is lifted, then witness signatures can be attached to your will.

The other documents in your estate plan, such as trusts, financial power of attorneys, health care power of attorneys, beneficiary deeds, guardianship documents, and disposition of last remains do not require witnesses.

There is one caveat to witnesses and estate plans; living wills do require two witnesses, however they don’t require notarization. My work around under these circumstances is to have, your spouse, adult child, or a neighbor witness while social distancing.

[UPDATE]

***As of January 1, 2021 Colorado no longer allows for the remote notarization of wills. On January 21, 2021 Colorado enacted the Colorado Uniform Electronic Wills Act.***

NOW, is the time to start on your estate plan. If not now, when? As with anything though, the hardest part is taking the first step. To help you, I’ve created a free estate planning booklet which you can download here: https://pmillerlawoffice.com/e-book

As with all my legal services I guarantee satisfaction with your estate plan, or your money back.

For more information on estate planning, or if you need help with your estate plan. paul@pmillerlawoffice.com  phone: (303) 900-2529

This article is for educational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice about your case or situation. There may be exceptions to the information outlined above. Please speak with an attorney if you have specific questions about your estate plan.

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