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COVID-19 prompts Hoosiers to create wills and power of attorney documents

Pandemic forces many to think about their own mortality
Posted at 4:12 PM, Mar 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-30 19:18:52-04

CARMEL — The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting many people to think about death and their own mortality, and for some, that means putting a will in place.

The idea might seem morbid, but estate planning attorneys say it’s a good idea to plan for the inevitable.

Rebecca Geyer, a Carmel attorney who practices estate planning and elder law, says she’s getting a lot of inquiries in light of the pandemic.

“I’ve received a lot of phone calls from physicians who are on the front lines of the crisis and just everyday folks who are just concerned they might contract something and it could impact their family quite a bit,” Geyer said. “Sometimes people have waited to do planning, life gets busy and they haven’t gotten documents in place and they’re very concerned now about getting the appropriate documents in place.”

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Geyer said it’s a smart thing to create a will and a power of attorney document, regardless of whether you’re impacted by the coronavirus.

"Power of attorney is a separate document and it allows someone to act for you in the event of a disability or if you're simply unable to act for yourself, you can't be physically present to handle a financial transaction or a health care transaction," Geyer said.

At a news conference Monday afternoon regarding COVID-19, the Indiana State Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer echoed the importance of getting your affairs in order.

“It’s just as important now as it always is to talk to your family and your loved ones about what your wishes would be if you fell ill and are unable to speak,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, ISDH Chief Medical Officer. “It’s time to have that conversation now.”

The Secretary of State’s office has made it easier to get important documents notarized remotely.

If you are an active Indiana notary, you may immediately apply to become a remote notary.

Geyer said she’s doing most of her business over the phone and computer.

"We do offer execution in-person but we follow social distancing rules,” Geyer said. “My office is working remotely and we're meeting with people unless absolutely necessary on an in-person basis."

Although some websites offer wills online, the documents could get thrown out in court.

Geyer recommends using an attorney if possible.

“Many people think if they have a will or trust in place that’s going to control all of their assets but that’s not really the case,” Geyer said. “Sometimes assets pass by beneficiary or title, so you want to make sure you’ve met with an advisor who can advise you on properly coordinating your assets with your planning—it’s more than just a document.”