Wills and estate planning documents hard to execute due to pandemic

Posted at 12:45 PM, Jun 12, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Talking about death can be a heavy subject, but more families are looking into it due to the coronavirus.

"We have had a little bit of an uptick of people wanting to get their documents prepared - many thinking the world may come to an end or they may get sick," said Nathan Olansen, Trust and Estate Attorney with Midgett, Preti and Olansen in Virginia Beach.

Olansen says the coronavirus is throwing a wrench in how to exactly put pen to paper in preparing last a will and testaments and estate planning documents.

"While we can meet and speak, the actual signing of the document still has to take place in person," said Olansen.

Having witnesses be present is also difficult due to social distancing.

"The pandemic has underscored the need for there to be some sort of legitimized remote witnesses process, whether by video conference or another coordinated meeting," he said.

The court closures are yet another road block as they work to finalize documents.

Related: 'Get a medical directive': Legal professionals advise people to prepare during COVID-19 pandemic

"We couldn't make appointments for those people to go down and qualify to be an executor, let's say, no one had authority to pay final debts and expenses," Olansen explained.

Olansen also says lawyers at his firm have had great difficulty gaining access to nursing homes and hospitals to make end-of-life changes to documents.

"We can't get in there, and they can't come out," he said.

Olansen says the unpredictability of the virus proves there is no better time but the present to start the planning process for yourself and your family.

"If you have no documents in place, whatever assets you own are going to be distributed in accordance to state law, and that may or may not be what you want," he said.

He says the basic estate planning documents include your will, financial power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney.

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