A major part of our practice is helping clients protect their families:
We do that in a number of ways, including creating corporate entities that create “firewalls” between our clients’ businesses and their personal assets. Other ways are through the use of trusts, Wills and even marital property agreements.
However COVID 19 has put a new twist on protecting our clients. We have had to be creative about how they get still do their planning without risk of spreading this pesky disease that has so altered our day to day activities. We can do much of that by working remotely and utilizing virtual meeting technology. This allows us to have the next best thing to face to face meetings. Being able to actually see and hear clients during these meetings, without the fear of putting anyone at risk, allows us to still have some meaningful discussion without distraction. And some clients really like meeting from home in shorts and tee shirts!
Governor Abbott has also signed an emergency order that allows us to also virtually do review and sign meetings. Most of the documents we create need to be notarized, and we can perform those services (all of our attorneys are notary publics) by watching clients sign virtually. Clients can use computers, tablets or even smart phones to attend these virtual meetings.
However, some documents, like a last will and testament, or a declaration of guardians, require two witnesses (if not wholly handwritten) as well as notarization. In order to be able to get these documents properly executed, we’ve had to get creative. So we’ve established a drive though will signing protocol in the parking lot of our building. Our clients pull up in their automobile, but stay in the car. A staff member, equipped with mask and gloves, will hand them their documents, which after being sworn in from a distance, they can sign in front of our staff and their attorney, then return the documents to a staffer for execution by the witnesses and the notary. Then they merely drive away without ever exiting the vehicle.
It is certainly an interesting way to practice law. But these uncertain times have many of us urgently seeking to button up our estate plans. Its nice to be able to come up with a way to allow our clients to be able to do that without putting anyone at risk. Soon we’ll be back to the old ways of meeting clients, but for now, we are keeping it safe!
By Michael G. Carroll