|Posted on April 3, 2020 at 2:55 PM|
Many people think about their mortality and whether they have their affairs in order during a time like the current pandemic. It is also more difficult to meet with an attorney to discuss their estate planning at this time. Many attorneys (including me) are still operating, but are meeting with clients by phone, Zoom, or other videoconferencing. Once the documents are drafted, having them notarized or witnessed is another challenge. At this time notaries at UPS stores and some other locations are still notarizing. Wills in California need to be witnessed by two people, so that takes some creativity, such as having a front porch witnessing with neighbors signing as witnesses. The requirements in California for other documents are:
Powers of Attorney: notarized or witnessed by two people
Advanced Health Care Directives: notarized or witnessed by two people
Trusts: Notarizing is generally done, but it is not actualy legally required. It is preferable, in order that there be no question about who signed the trust.
Deeds: Notarizing is required
Holographic Wills: No witnessing or notarizing required
A holographic will is written by the testator (person making the will) in their own handrwriting and signed and dated by the the testator. A holographic will is not ideal, since people that are not experienced in writing wills and how the language is interpreted can sometimes create ambiguity. But the holographic will can at least as a stop-gap state who will receive the person's property when they die (beneficiary/ies), and who will be in charge of distributing it (the executor). A will does not avoid probate of a house or other property that is worth more than $160,000 and has no beneficiary or joint owner. It simply determines the beneficiary/ies and who is the executor. A will can also state instructions about burial, cremation, and memorial services.
Let's all stay safe so the estate planning documents can give peace of mind but not be needed until a long time in the future.