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Creative Ways Siblings Can Deal With Estate Planning During COVID-19

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of October 2, 2020, more than 7 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and at least 209,000 have died as a result of their infections. The COVID-19 pandemic shows no signs of stopping, which means that alternative ways of conducting business and other legal matters will have to continue. If you and one or more of your siblings are dealing with an estate or a disputed will, estate planning litigation lawyers are offering some alternate ways to work through the difficulties.

Collaborate Through Technology

If you or your siblings are at high risk for COVID-19 infection or complications, it’s not a good idea to spend time discussing estate issues and will disputes in person. Instead, plan to discuss issues and collaborate online, by phone, or through video conference. Most attorneys aren’t offering extended in-person discussions, but you can still discuss estate and will disputes virtually. A document can be drafted and reviewed by email. Calls and video calls allow you to discuss issues in real time. Finalized documents can be sent with a tracked delivery service.

Use Your Time Wisely

While events are canceled and there aren’t as many opportunities for travel and recreation, use this time to get your issues sorted. Address any estate or will issues that are on your mind. You may even want to use this experience to plan your own estate in a way that will avoid the issues that you and your siblings are dealing with now.

What New Jersey Laws Say About Will and Estate Document Signing

In New Jersey law, wills and advance directives for health care are only valid if executed in the presence of two witnesses. However, the courts have made some arrangements for dealing with these issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are options if a person is too sick to handle the estate planning or will dispute settlement through the traditional in-person methods.

Holographic Will

New Jersey judges may allow a holographic will for settling disputes among heirs. This process requires that the testator’s material terms and signature be in their own handwriting. This allows the New Jersey Superior Court to admit the documentation into probate. Anyone with an interest in the will, including people who aren’t siblings, will be given a chance to review and contest it.

Writing Intended as a Will

If you and your siblings are dealing with a document that your parent intended as a will, you may have to discuss this and consider if it’s what your parent truly wanted. If there is no other will, the court may accept it as your parent’s will. Judges are allowing this with an increased frequency during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Work With a Mediator

Siblings may be able to work together with a mediator online or in a Zoom or Skype call in order to sort through disputes. You may choose to do this if the court is in the process of reviewing a document intended as a will. Mediators can help you with disputes related to who gets a personal item of your parent’s or how to divide a set of something among all of you.

How to Sign Off on Final Documents

Once you and your siblings come to an agreement, there are many options for signing the final document. You might go to the attorney’s office with a mask and gloves and sign the will. However, this is unlikely. A drive-up will signing is another option. You wouldn’t have to enter the law office. Keep in mind that the attorney may not have to be present when you and your siblings sign the document. Your neighbor or boss could be your witness. Some notary requirements are being waived, and those waivers may continue until a vaccine is available for COVID-19 or until the public health situation improves.

To learn more about dealing with will disputes with your siblings, call our estate planning litigation lawyer in Hackensack, NJ, today at (201) 996-1200, or complete our online contact form.

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