A Word of Reassurance from Taft's Estate Planners and Information on Health Care Advance Directives

Many of our clients have asked whether they can complete and sign their estate plans during this challenging time of social distancing.

The answer is yes.

Taft continues to serve its clients and can prepare estate plans and assist with signing estate planning documents. Our lawyers have long been adept at working remotely. We have worked with clients by phone and email for the great majority of the process, well before the current laws and guidelines on distancing.

Some documents need witnesses or notaries. These requirements can be handled a number of ways while maintaining safe social distances. Many states are discussing or enacting distance notarization.

The bottom line is that we can and are continuing to serve existing and new clients.

If you have questions about your current estate plan, or are considering creating an estate plan for the first time, contact us. We will make sure that one of our estate planners consults with you.

For more information about the nuts and bolts of estate planning, visit our Estate Planning Resources guide.

This guide discusses wills, financial and health care powers of attorney, trusts, taxes and probate. Many, perhaps half, of Americans do not have a will. At least as many do not have financial and health care powers of attorney. These documents allow an individual to name trusted people to handle financial matters and to make health care decisions if they are unable to do so for health or other reasons.

Our clients often tell us that they feel great peace of mind when they complete their estate plan. That was true before the current situation and will be true in the future.

Estate planning lawyers as a profession, whether at Taft or other firms, find their work meaningful and want to be helpful to the public and our clients. We cooperate with one another. We wish everyone the best during this unprecedented time and feel confident that less anxious times will be here soon. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions and concerns.

State Standard Health Care Advance Directives

Below are links to standard health care advance directives. Each state has suggested forms which members of the public can complete themselves. If you have questions, please let us know.

Health Care Surrogate and Living Will forms are available here.

Signing a Florida Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will:

  • The principal must sign in the presence of two (2) witnesses.
  • Witness requirements:
    • Each must be at least eighteen (18) years of age;
    • At least one person who acts as a witness shall be neither a spouse nor blood relative of the principal; and
    • A person designated as surrogate may not act as a witness on the Designation of Health Care Surrogate.
  • If the principal is unable to sign, the principal may, in the presence of witnesses, direct another person sign the principal’s name.

The Illinois Health Care Power of Attorney forms are available here.

The Illinois Department of Health’s Explanation of Advance Directives is available here.

A witness can sign an Illinois health care power of attorney at a safe distance. The person signing the document as a witness does not need to observe the signing. The person witnessing can check “the person acknowledged his/her signature.” 

When naming a health care agent, Illinois requires informing an adult person who is not named as an agent, not a relative, not a medical service provider and not an owner of a medical care facility.

The Illinois property power of attorney requires the witnesses to be physically present, along with the notary.

The Indiana State Department of Health’s Advance Directives Resource Center is available here.

The Indiana health care power of attorney requires one witness who is an adult and is not the representative being named.

The Living Will Directive and Health Care Surrogate Designation form is available here.

This form should be signed and dated in the presence of two witnesses over 18 OR a notary. Kentucky law prohibits an individual’s relatives, heirs, health care providers or guardians from being witnesses.

Advance Directives forms are available here.

There are two options for signing a Minnesota Health Care Directive: (a) in front of two witnesses OR (b) in front of a notary.

A health care agent or alternate health care agent appointed in a health care power of attorney may not act as a witness or notary public for the execution of the health care directive. At least one witness to the execution of the health care directive must not be a health care provider providing direct care to the principal (person signing the directive) or an employee of a health care provider providing direct care to the principal on the date of execution.

A person notarizing a health care directive may be an employee of a health care provider providing direct care to the principal.

Advance Directives forms are available here.

In Ohio, the health care power of attorney and living will are two separate documents.  See the instructions on the link for the differences between the two. All individuals are encouraged to sign a health care power of attorney to name their agents. Many people will also sign a living will.

Two witnesses OR a notary are needed. The witnesses cannot be: related to the individual signing by blood, adoption or marriage; the person(s) named as agents; the individual’s attending physician or guardian; or the administrator of a nursing home where the individual is receiving care.

Advance Directive forms are available here.

Instructions for signing the Wisconsin Health Care Power of Attorney: 

  • Two witnesses are required.
  • Wisconsin law requires the principal (person signing the power of attorney) and all witnesses to sign at the same time.
  • No notary is required.

Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age, not related to the principal by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, or adoption and not directly financially responsible for the principal’s health care. A witness cannot be a health care provider who is serving the principal at the time the document is signed, or an employee of the health care provider unless the employee is a chaplain or social worker. A witness cannot be an employee of an inpatient health care facility in which the principal is a patient, unless the employee is a chaplain or social worker. A witness cannot be the health care agent nor have a claim on any portion of the principal’s estate.

Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.

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