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Caring For Generations

In the Matter of Emergency Procedures for the Witnessing of Wills

On Behalf of | May 6, 2020 | coronavirus' effect on estate planning, wills

A little over one month ago, Indiana Governor Holcomb declared a public health emergency in Indiana relating to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Appropriate public health responses require limiting trial court operations and trial related activities. A special order was issued by the Indiana Supreme Court that affects estate planning. Under ordinary circumstances, a testator and two witnesses had to be physically together to sign the documents.

What are the emergency procedures that have been put in place?

1.    Remote witnessing of wills: “The Court deems permissible substantial include simultaneous remote appearance by audio-video communication technology.” The document shall be re-ratified or re-executed within 90 days after the health emergency expires.

2.    Remote swearing in of witnesses: “Notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Indiana may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology, provided they can positively identify the witness.”

“The coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly has you on edge. We’ve all been forced to face our fears in some way, whether it’s the fear of falling ill, losing a job or having to spend time alone,” writes Casey Bond in the Huffington Post. “With all these anxieties and unknowns weighing on your mind, it might feel like there’s suddenly a pressing need to get your affairs in order ? just in case,” Bond observes.

While the two most important documents to have on hand are your medical and financial powers of attorney, reviewing your will and any trusts you have in place is a good idea. In the event changes are in order, the new emergency procedures will allow changes to be made, witnessed and notarized, all without breaching social distancing guidelines.

At Geyer Law, we realize with every passing day, the pandemic has people pondering the fragility of life and health. Many of our clients are calling on us to help them review and make changes to their documents, particularly in light of the 2019 SECURE Act and the 2020 CARES Act.

Fortunately, the same audiovisual technology that enables the new emergency procedures authorized by the court is making it feasible for us to meet with our clients by phone or video conference.

– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team