If you were in the process of estate planning, you may wonder how you will be able to finish your important legal documents during this time of global pandemic. Many areas are currently requiring shelter-in-place, and those that are not may be by the time this article is actually finished. The changes are occurring at a rapid pace, and you may wonder how your estate planning can be handled in this time of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). If you are considering your estate planning needs, or in the process of creating your estate plan, know that there are options for you in the state of California during this very uncertain time.
Typically, probate law in California requires that your Last Wills need to be signed by two witnesses. However, there are specific allowances if a Last Will and Testament (will) is not executed completely in compliance with the witness requirements.
Probate Code Section 6110(c)(1)-(2) states:
(c)(1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), the will shall be witnessed by being signed, during the testator’s lifetime, by at least two persons each of whom (A) being present at the same time, witnessed either the signing of the will or the testator’s acknowledgment of the signature or of the will and (B) understand that the instrument they sign is the testator’s will.
(2) If a will was not executed in compliance with paragraph (1), the will shall be treated as if it was executed in compliance with that paragraph if the proponent of the will establishes by clear and convincing evidence that, at the time the testator signed the will, the testator intended the will to constitute the testator’s will.
Estate Planning During Coronavirus
Many attorney offices have shut down, or in other cases, people are simply not encouraged to leave their homes for non-essential items or services. It is important to note that all estate planning documents have different requirements. For example, some documents need to be notarized, but living trusts do not need to be notarized. If you have estate planning documents in process, we can meet with you over the phone or over a video conference to discuss your estate planning needs. In fact, we can help you create your estate planning documents and then have you sign and fill out all necessary paperwork remotely.
If someone happens to pass away prior to either notarization or without correct witness signatures on an estate planning document, an experienced estate planning attorney will be able to still file an 850 Heggstad Petition, requesting that the court look at the documents and the current circumstances and hold all estate planning documents valid under the law.