Though dying is an eventuality that we will all face, most of us are not thinking about it every day.
Small estate lawyers all over Texas see proof of this in the number of people who continually put off drawing up a will, living each day unprepared for what could happen at any moment.
Whether it’s because people just forget to take care of this detail or don’t want to face the fact that one day they’ll be gone, the percentage of people who have no plans made for handling their property once they have passed is high.
Well, all that has dramatically changed within the past few weeks with COVID-19 in the picture now and many estate planning attorneys are busier than ever.
People are suddenly acknowledging their mortality, the seriousness of the situation, and realizing that they need to do some end-of-life planning - just in case.
Substantial Increase In Wills Being Written
Since COVID-19 became a pandemic that could potentially affect millions of Americans in many ways, the demand for will writing has increased significantly according to many small estate planning law firms.
Online will writing platforms are seeing 150% more wills being written online, a number that’s expected to continue to increase.
Traditional legal firms that do estate planning are also seeing record numbers of new clients seeking help and filling up their schedules.
The pandemic that has currently sickened more than 110,000 people and caused 22,000 deaths has forced people to realize that they could be afflicted any day and admit that they are not financially ready.
Texas Wills Essential for Property Distribution
Texas law states that if a person dies without a will, their wealth and possessions are passed to their closest living relatives, first spouses, then children, and then other relatives.
It’s not required in Texas that a will be drafted by an estate planning lawyer; it can be done online and even as a holographic or hand-written will.
Although many types of wills written by a deceased may be accepted as legal documents, it’s still highly recommended to work with an estate planning lawyer who will make sure there are no errors that could affect the legality of the will or leave the courts needing to interpret ambiguous language which will make estate dispersal more difficult and time-consuming.
Online Wills Not All They Are Cracked Up to Be
Online will writing is definitely a convenience, especially during a time when so many people are suddenly realizing they are not prepared for the future; however, online wills are not the one-size-fits-all solution that many think they are.
Each state has different requirements for wills and other types of estate planning and lawyers warn that it’s about more than just designating who gets the property when someone passes.
Healthcare directives, ethical wills, setting up trusts, and other more detailed issues may not be as easy to accomplish without at least having to call an estate planning attorney to discuss personal details and how to handle them.
The process is even more detailed for parents needing to decide on the guardianship of their children.
Considering these facts, it may not be possible for every individual to simply login to a will writing platform and create a legal and binding will within an hour.
Actually, most lawyers recommend against it due to the large margin for error and the potential to end up with a document that is not legally binding.
Lawyers Are Working Hard to Fill the Demand
Law firms that do small estate planning are also dealing with their own challenges as the pandemic continues and requests for services increases daily.
What is normally done face-to-face in an office must now take place via phone call or video conference to adhere to social-distancing rules to keep everyone safe.
Attorneys are drafting wills at record paces; however, there is still the issue of signing and notarizing these documents after the fact to make them binding and legal.&
A currently-used option has been for some estate planning attorneys to offer “drive-through” signing services to fulfill legal requirements while maintaining social distancing.
In Texas, Gov. Abbott has temporarily suspended some of the state statues that require any notary work to be done in person.
A self-proved will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, a physician directive, or an executor, administrator or guardian oath can be notarized via video conference.
These are the only cases when this type of notarization can be done and the documents will remain valid even after the disaster declaration is lifted or expires.
Don’t Wait To Contact an Estate Lawyer About A Will
We are all facing unique and challenging times as we try to deal with COVID-19 and the effects it has made on our lives in so many ways.
As such, having a legally binding will drafted by an experienced estate planning attorney is more important than ever before.
With the possibility of time delays in getting one written and new challenges in signing and notarizing, those without wills should avoid leaving them to the last minute.
Get started by reaching out to an estate planning lawyer today and get that ball rolling.
Schreier & Housewirth Family Law
1329 College Avenue, Suite 100
Fort Worth TX 76104
Gregory L. Housewirth is a Board-Certified Family Law Specialist practicing in Fort Worth, Texas. With 30 years of family law experience, Mr. Housewirth has represented hundreds of clients in divorce, custody, CPS, modification, and grandparent cases. In addition, Mr. Housewirth is a qualified family law mediator and a member of Collaborative Law Texas, a practice group dedicated to promoting collaborative divorce in Texas.