Avoid Social Distancing Mistakes When Rushing a Will

With more than 16,000 deaths from COVID-19 in New Jersey as of early October, the pandemic has led many to think about mortality. Fearing the worst, lots of Americans have rushed to finalize wills over the past several months. Whether you’ve already executed a will or you are planning to, you can still follow all the necessary social distancing protocols.

Visiting Attorneys in Person to Share Documents

As of the end of September 2020, the United States found itself home to the world’s largest COVID-19 case count at 7.17 million, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now that the initial shock of COVID-19 has worn off to many people, social events are becoming popular again. College and professional sports games, for example, have opened back up.

Social distancing, as you’ve been told, is an essential part of fighting the novel coronavirus pandemic. Despite protections taken to prevent coronavirus transmission, you should avoid making unnecessary trips.

Although will planning isn’t easy, most estate planning work doesn’t require in-office visits. In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, most attorneys and law firms can be reached remotely. Many offer multiple modes of communication, including video conferencing, email, telephone, text message and instant messaging.

If you’ve already visited an attorney in person to plan your will, don’t sweat it. Going forward, however, you should communicate with your legal professionals remotely whenever possible.

Law firms use strong security measures to prevent unauthorized access to legal documents sent digitally. If you’re not comfortable with sending or receiving files digitally, ask your attorney to send documents the old-fashioned way. Another COVID-19-friendly option is using lockboxes to exchange documents. This way, if your estate planning attorney is local, you can safely receive legal documents in person without risking COVID-19 transmission.

Signing Documents Can Be Done Online

The U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) officially recognized digital signatures as legally binding. Passed into law by Congress two full decades ago, the 2000 bill established a legal precedent that’s still recognized today.

Some Americans, especially older ones, may not feel comfortable about signing documents online. This is relevant to estate planning because most people don’t create wills until they retire. Considering that seniors are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than any other population, unwillingness to sign documents digitally could have health consequences.

The traditional view of signing and sending documents, which often required trips to post offices, is no longer applicable today. Your loved ones might be surprised that many signatures are already digital. Also, virtually all law firms store important legal files digitally.

Law firms use digital file storage because it offers several benefits over its traditional counterpart. Documents can be accessed from anywhere. With digital options, saving multiple copies of files in different locations decreases the risk of inadvertently destroying or misplacing files.

Potentially exposing yourself and your loved ones to the novel coronavirus to sign documents isn’t a good trade-off. Even if you don’t have a fax machine or scanner, you can still sign documents and send them to your estate planning lawyer. Most modern smartphones take higher-quality pictures than conventional fax machines and scanners, anyway.

New Jersey Now Supports Digital Notarization

Notaries public play a necessary role in the estate planning process. They validate important legal documents like wills and estate plans. Without them, your will might not hold up in court.

For years, most states didn’t recognize digital notarization. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, several states have allowed notaries public to offer their services online. Thanks to P.L. 2020, c.26, a law passed in New Jersey back in April, digital notarization is now allowed in the Garden State.

Despite this law’s passing, many families are neglecting digital notary services. Therefore, visiting notaries public in person remains one of the most common COVID-19 estate planning mistakes made by New Jersey residents.

Here at the Knee Law Firm, we’ll protect you from these common mistakes and help secure your family’s estate. Visit us online to learn more about our estate planning lawyers. You can also call our Hackensack office at (201) 996-1200.