If you are like me, you have been reading a lot of online articles telling you what to do and what not to do to keep yourself safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. As an attorney, I can’t give you any advice on that – you’re much better off talking to a doctor or nurse. I can tell you that we are doing our best to help our clients and our staff stay healthy.
For the most part, we continue to be able to complete our work for our clients. We have hand sanitizer everywhere, and we are wiping everything down with disinfectant several times a day. We are trying to limit our in-person contact with our clients, so we’ve really limited the number of meetings we have in our office. It’s hard, because our clients are some of our favorite people, and we miss seeing you! However, we’ve been looking into different ways to stay in touch (figuratively, of course; not literally). We practiced using videoconference software this week, and our conference telephone line has been getting a lot of use.
Of course, as estate planning attorneys, a lot of our job involves creating documents that require witnessed signatures or notarized signatures. As elder law attorneys, a lot of our job involves working with people who are especially at risk for contracting the Covid-19 virus. Therefore, we anticipate that there may be challenges to completing our work as we continue to practice the recommended social distancing measures. For example, under Indiana law, a Last Will and Testament is only valid if it is signed by two witnesses who are present at the time the testator signs the will. I have been part of a few different discussions in which attorneys are trying to figure out how we can help a client who is quarantined in a nursing facility get his or her will properly executed – under normal circumstances we are just able to walk into the client’s room and witness it ourselves. Now, we are working to balance our clients’ needs to get their documents in order with the facilities’ need to prioritize their patients’ health and safety. We face similar problems with documents that require a notarized signature (such as a power of attorney). Even though Indiana law allows for digitally-signed wills, the law does not negate the requirement that witnesses be physically present with the testator. Indiana law also allows for remote notarization of documents, but the state of Indiana has not yet set up the registration and technology needed to perform remote notarization. We continue to look for solutions.
As we are in all the other areas of our lives during this uncertain time, we are trying to stay flexible in our expectations while working to be as available as possible to help our clients when they need us. We recognize that we all must work together to protect the most vulnerable among us.