• Michael B. Walling

Signing your Estate Plan remotely during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus many people want to create their estate plans; i.e., Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, etc. I think this is an excellent idea. The problem we were having is that with Governor Whitmer's Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, it was almost impossible to sign the documents in front of the required witnesses and notary. In response to this, Governor Whitmer signed an Order allowing electronic signatures on all legal documents in Michigan. Further, it allows a witness and/or a notary to observe you signing the document remotely by way of Zoom or any other audiovisual technology. This means that you do not have to have a witness and notary present when you sign your documents. This allows people to create estate plans during this uncertain time.


With the chance of becoming ill higher than ever, I would advise everyone to have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document allows someone to make medical treatment decisions for you if you become unable to make the decisions yourself. This person is called your Patient Advocate. The decisions include end-of-life decision like stopping life support. Not even your spouse has the legal right to make medical treatment decisions for you. That is why it is so important to have the document in place. If you do not have a durable power of attorney for health care, then a guardian would have to appointed for you through the probate court. The durable power of attorney for health care can be drafted by an attorney or you may be able get one for free from your local hospital (often called a Patient Advocate Designation) or online. Just be careful when trying to get a "free" one online. There are many places that say "free" that are not. Also, the form is specific to Michigan as it is based on Michigan law. Don't get one from a company outside of the Michigan. Here is one from the University of Michigan that is a bit long but it does a good job of informing you of what you are doing each step of the way:

http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/AdvanceDirectives/ADbooklet.pdf


People will ask, "Why would I pay an attorney to draft one when I can get one for free online?" The answer is because the attorney knows the law. He or she will explain to you what are signing, what rights you are giving your patient advocate, what the affect is, and what the law is. Usually the document drafted by an attorney is more comprehensive as well. The attorney can help you decide who is the best person to appoint as your patient advocate and can draft the document to handle your specific situation.


One last thing: You must be competent to sign a durable power of attorney for health care. As such, it is better to get one sooner than later before something happens and it's too late.


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