As COVID-19 continues to spread and take lives, an increasing number of people are thinking about estate planning. The threat of COVID-19 is causing more people to worry about having their estates in order and authorizing people they trust to make medical and financial decisions for them on their behalf. There is no doubt that estate planning services are in high demand. Unfortunately, in a time of social distancing, it may be difficult to meet in person with your lawyer and witnesses.
Estate Planning Documents Require Notarization
The most common estate planning documents — like wills, Durable Powers of Attorney, and Healthcare Powers of Attorney — generally require notarization and/or the signatures of witnesses. Depending on which state you live in, notarization may be a challenge during COVID-19, when many citizens are urged to stay at home and limit travel.
Although the State of Maryland does not require notarization of a will, the Office of the Register of Wills in Maryland states that:
“A will must be signed by the person making the will (testator/testatrix) and Attested and signed by two credible witnesses in the presence of the person making the will.”
Traditionally, the signing of wills and other important documents has taken place in person, with all witnesses in the physical presence of the person creating the will.
Can I Get My Will Witnessed in Maryland During COVID-19?
As states gradually reopen, people who need their wills and other estate planning documents signed by witnesses might not be sure about how to finalize these documents. Currently, Maryland is in Stage 2 of reopening, which allows for many workplaces and businesses to resume operations at reduced capacity. Stage 2 began on Jun. 5, 2020 at 5 pm.
Maryland has seen a drop in COVID-19 cases, but people are still advised to follow the CDC’s recommendations and limit non-essential travel. To accommodate people who seek legal services, many law firms in Maryland, deemed essential businesses, are open for business.
Establishing a Durable Power of Attorney During COVID-19
Individuals concerned about becoming ill or who may be at risk of becoming incapacitated may now prioritize establishing a Durable Power of Attorney. A Durable Power of Attorney authorizes another individual to handle financial matters on your behalf if you are no longer mentally capable of making these decisions on our own.
With a Durable Power of Attorney, the individual you authorize to make decisions for you may do so immediately or when you become incapacitated. This person is called your agent. He or she may handle transactions like buying and selling real estate, managing your bank accounts and investments, filing your tax returns, and applying for government benefits on your behalf. You can get started on a Durable Power of Attorney with the help of an estate planning lawyer in Maryland. The Law Offices of Clifford M. Cohen is fully operational at this time.
Establishing a Healthcare Power of Attorney During COVID-19
Establishing a Healthcare Power of Attorney may be one of the most important things you do during the pandemic. A Healthcare Power of Attorney, also known as an Advance Directive in Maryland, assigns someone you trust to be your agent in the event you are unable to communicate decisions about your healthcare. If you become physically or mentally incapable of deciding what kind of treatment you want, your agent will be able to do so on your behalf.
If you become unable to make decisions for yourself, your agent will be authorized to do so based on your preferences. You can also decide when you want to give your agent the power to make these decisions in your Advance Directive. Generally, you may choose a family member to be your agent, but your agent does not need to be related to you. Keep in mind that your agent will be able to make important decisions regarding your medical treatment, even when others who care about you may think another form of treatment is best.
Get Your Estate Planning in Order in Washington, DC and Maryland
Attorney Clifford M. Cohen can help you formally establish Powers of Attorney in your estate plan. With more than 35 years of experience serving residents of Washington, DC and Maryland, you can count on him to provide reliable counsel when creating your will or trust. Call (202) 895-2799 for a free consultation or complete our contact form.