Along with bread baking, bike riding and playing board games, add this to the list of things that have become more popular during the pandemic: writing your will.
Several local lawyers specializing in trust and estate work say the number of people coming to them to prepare a will has shot up 20 to 35% since the COVID-19 virus hit.
“I have been busier now than in all 23 years of my practice,” said Mary Alice Fleming, an estate planning attorney with the DeWitt law firm in Minneapolis. “It’s been unbelievable.”
Local lawyers say the clients who have come to them recently have included teachers, doctors and other people who think they might be in particular risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“These aren’t necessarily old people,” said Minneapolis attorney Ivory Umanah.
The pandemic has been a wake-up call for some that we are all mortal.
“All of a sudden people are realizing they’re not getting out of this alive,” said Chris Dahlberg, an attorney in Duluth.
Lawyers also said that during the pandemic, they are seeing less of the procrastination that clients used to exhibit when doing the work needed to write a will or a health care directive.
“There’s a much greater sense of urgency. You can hear it in people’s voices,” said Twin Cities lawyer Clayton Chan.
In Minnesota, a will has to be signed before two witnesses who also have to sign the document. Local lawyers said they’ve conducted safe signings online or behind glass, on porches and decks, in parking lots and on car hoods, using masks, gloves, sanitized pens and clipboards.
“Quite frankly, the clients have loved the drive-by signings,” said Golden Valley attorney Rebecca Bell.
Costs of writing a will can vary depending on the attorney or the complexity of your estate.
On her Unique Estate Law website, lawyer Chris Tymchuck is offering “COVID 19 Reduced Fees,” with a will, a financial power of attorney and a health care directive costing $500 for an individual or $950 for a couple.
It might seem like a dreaded task. But trust and estate lawyers say it feels good when it’s over.
“It’s always a sense of relief and comfort,” said Stephen Otto, a Roseville attorney.
“People come out of here and they’re just smiling,” Dahlberg said.