California residents have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. And with hundreds of thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than several thousand deaths, Gov. Gavin Newsom has once again been forced to order several business sectors to shut down to help curb the spread of the virus. While the pandemic has urged many people to seek out our estate planning services so that they can get their affairs in order, it has also made drafting and executing important legal documents more challenging. Below we explain some of the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the estate planning process in California.
Signing Estate Planning Documents During a Pandemic
Traditionally, in-person interactions are an essential part of the estate planning process. However, “social distancing” protocols have forced law firms to switch over to video platforms like Zoom and/or telephone connections to serve clients. Although some documents can be drafted by an attorney and then sent via email or U.S. Mail., things are more complicated when it comes to actually putting a signature on the documents.
In California, the person making a will must sign the document. The will must also be signed by two disinterested witnesses. California Probate Code section 6110 states that both witnesses must be present at the same time and have to see either the will-maker sign the document or acknowledge their signature on the will. The will-maker must also be of sound mind and the will can’t be drafted or procured by duress, menace, fraud, or undue influence.
People have been running into difficulties drafting wills during the pandemic because so many law offices are closed, and tracking down disinterested witnesses outside of the household can be challenging during this chaotic time as people try to avoid contact with others.
At the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port, our law office is still operating and we can assist you with drafting a will for your estate plan today. Call us at (310) 526-3433 to find out more about the services we offer to accommodate your legal needs during this time.
Notarizing Trusts During the Pandemic
Although trusts don’t need to be witnessed in California, amendments and the trust must be notarized to authenticate the documents. The same goes for funding trusts with real property. According to Probate Code sections 4121 and 4122, powers of attorney for financial management have to be notarized or signed by at least two witnesses other than the agent. Advance health care directives also have a similar requirement.
The inability to meet face-to-face can present a hurdle for notaries in California because the state doesn’t allow them to conduct remote online notarization. However, the Secretary of State has also cited Civil Code section 1189(b), which says California residents can use “remote online notarization” if they use a service provider in a state where such notarization is permitted.
Schedule Your Consultation with our Estate Planning Team Today
At the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port, we understand that a detailed will and properly funded trusts are crucial aspects of a strong estate plan. Our compassionate and skilled lawyers are here to answer your questions and tackle your legal needs during these challenging times, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today to learn more about the wide variety of estate planning services we offer.
We proudly offer free consultations over the phone. Please call us today at (310) 526-3433 to set up an appointment with a lawyer at our firm.