Estate Planning in Illinois during the Current COVID-19 Crisis – the Power to Address All of Your “What Ifs” Now

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us in Illinois are complying with the governor’s stay-at-home order. We are hunkered down in our homes – making only necessary trips for essential matters such as medical treatment, supplies, or perhaps taking a walk to breathe in in some fresh air and soak in some sunshine while maintaining social distancing. We thank and applaud everyone who is doing their part in curbing the spread of this virus.

At this time, some of you may reflect on the “what ifs” of the future. What will happen if you become incapacitated, or worse, if you pass? What if your child has special needs and you wish to preserve assets for the benefit of your child? What if you have minor children? How or who will take care of them and assets for their benefit should you be unable to care for them, or worse, die? Are you able to make or coordinate health care and financial decisions for your spouse, parent or other elder loved one?

Illinois law provides defaults for distributions through probate court proceedings if you were to pass away and a legal process (namely, guardianship) should you become incapacitated. Depending on Illinois law could involve what could be costly court proceedings. Ultimately, the result of the Illinois laws may not reflect your wishes as to the disposition of your assets and/or who will be in charge. A properly executed estate plan sets out your wishes and names the trusted persons you want in charge of your affairs during life and afterward. Estate plan documents can and often include wills, powers of attorney, living wills, and trust documents – such as living trusts, special needs trusts, or asset protection trusts.

Crafting an estate plan is very personal to each individual or family. This means that you are likely to work closely with an attorney to develop your plan. Normally, your attorney meets with you in person to review your financial circumstances and wishes when helping you develop your estate plan. This is in addition to completing questionnaires, meetings, email and telephonic communications. Ultimately, you meet with your attorney to review and execute your estate plan documents. You must execute the majority of your estate plan documents in the physical presence of two witnesses and a notary. As you can see, it can be quite difficult to maintain the social distancing required to stay safe during this process.

The importance of social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis cannot be emphasized enough. But, as a society, we also recognize the importance of pre-planning. To balance these important yet seemingly conflicting goals, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order that allows for notarizing and witnessing of wills, trusts, powers of attorney for property and health, as well as deeds via video conferencing. The solution has certain logistical requirements that require a bit of technical prowess, but it is a way to balance public safety with the importance of expressing your wishes through properly executed documents.

In response to Governor Pritzker’s executive order, our firm developed procedures to accommodate video conferencing or teleconferencing with clients who wish to establish an estate plan. We also created procedures for remote signings, as well as in office signing procedures that strictly adhere to social distancing rules for everyone’s safety.

For assistance with establishing your estate plan during this time or in areas of Elder Law, contact us at Wilson and Wilson Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC at 708 482 7090 for our main office in LaGrange, Illinois or at 847 656 8958 for our Northbrook, Illinois office.