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Signing Estate Planning Documents By Remote During the COVID-19 Crisis

By Kevin G. Harvey

The current COVID-19 crisis has caused a renewed focus on the need to implement an estate plan.  However, Governor Holcomb’s stay at home order for Indiana, as well as federal social distancing guidelines, have presented challenges for people to complete their estate plans without taking unnecessary health risks.  Fortunately, on March 31, 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order that temporarily allows a last will and testament to be signed and witnessed through video conferencing, as long as the requirements in the order are followed.  The order requires the documents to be re-signed within 90 days of the end of the COVID-19 crisis in the physical presence of the attesting witnesses.

Indiana law also allows for documents to be notarized by remote.  The Indiana Secretary of State was not planning to implement this procedure until July, 2020, but on March 31, 2020, issued notice that an effort was going to be made to implement this procedure immediately.  As of this writing, the procedure has not yet been implemented, but it will hopefully be useable soon.

We have already made use of the Supreme Court order with clients who wanted to finalize their last wills and testaments before this crisis is over.  If clients do not have access to video conferencing technology, we can still help.  Today we completed a client’s estate plan by having the client stay in his car in our parking lot, while we witnessed his signatures through his car window.  We can utilize the “car in the parking lot” process to notarize powers of attorney and healthcare powers of attorney that are part of a client’s estate plan.

Rather than experiencing a decline in estate planning work during these difficult times, our estate planning work has increased as our clients have recognized the urgency to have documents in place in case of a long hospitalization and/or period of incapacity.  If you also have a need and a desire to complete your estate plan now, we can assist you in doing so.  Contact us today and we can begin the process.