Covid-19 has forced attorneys to reinvent how they do business, and it’s definitely worked to the advantage and convenience of our clients. We consider our office to be on the cutting edge of these new procedures. Traditionally, we’d require our estate planning clients to come into our office for a consultation and then come back again at a later date for a formal signing before witnesses and a notary public. Covid has wreaked havoc on that traditional procedure. We take the health of our clients very seriously, and we never want to run the risk of unknowingly exposing our clients to this virus. As a result, 95% of the Estate Planning Process is now virtual, and our clients are loving it!! Truth be told, even after we’re beyond Covid, I doubt that the estate planning process will ever go back to what it was. These new procedures are simply much faster and more convenient for our clients.
It’s now the norm that our office meets with our clients via Zoom or over the telephone from the comfort of their living room or office. No in-person office consultation is required or expected. We prefer Zoom as it still gives us that face-to-face contact and allows us to put a face to your name, but if you’re not familiar with Zoom a telephone conference will work just fine. Any documents that our office needs to review can be emailed or mailed to us at your convenience. Once we’ve gathered all the necessary information we will mail or email drafts of your Estate Planning documents to you for review usually within 7 days. We will then have virtual follow-up meetings to answer any questions or make any necessary changes. Once you tell us that the documents are in final form and ready to sign, instead of gathering 5-6 people in our conference room, we now offer two popular streamlined procedures for safely signing and finalizing your documents:
- A quick drive up signing in our office parking lot. You’ll park in our office lot at a scheduled time and never get out of your car. I will bring two witnesses and a notary from our office out to watch you sign your documents from a distance. I will of course be masked and will walk you through this signing procedure. Rather than wait around for copies to be made and your documents to be assembled, you can head home immediately after your signing. You’re usually on your way home 10-15 minutes after arriving and never even have to get out of your car. After you leave, I’ll have the witnesses and notary also sign your documents, will make copies and will assemble your documents in a binder or presentation folder along with other instructions on implementing your estate plan. I’ll mail your original documents to you along with an extra copy. We’ll then have a follow-up virtual meeting to guide you through the next step of implementing your estate plan.
- A driveway or backyard signing at your residence. Our office will make arrangements to meet you at your residence, and the entire signing will take place outside in a socially distanced manner. You’ll need to have some type of table and chair set up in your driveway, yard or patio to conduct the signing (patio/deck furniture or a simple card table will be fine). If we do the signing this way, you’ll be responsible for gathering two people to also sign your documents as witnesses. They must be at least 18, not related to you, and not named in any of your documents. Many clients use neighbors or family friends, and that seems to work best. Everyone should be wearing masks and we’ll keep adequate distance from each other during the process. After the signing is complete, I’ll take the documents back with me, will make copies and assemble the documents in a binder or presentation folder and mail them to you as described above. We’ll have a follow-up virtual meeting to guide you through the next step of implementing your estate plan. Again, this entire process should not take more than 10-15 minutes. There is no additional charge for me to come to your residence for this signing as long as you are in the St. Louis metropolitan area.
After we implemented these procedures last Spring, we were somewhat skeptical as to how our clients would react, but the feedback has been 100% positive. Our clients love the ease of not having to interrupt their day to come to our office for numerous meetings. We replace those office meetings with Zoom or telephone meetings, and that seems to have now become the new norm for us these days.
While there are still many law firms who are reluctant to change, and require you to meet with them face-to-face, we feel these virtual estate planning procedures are necessary to protect you in this age of Covid. They also make the entire process much more convenient and streamlined for you!! We’re here to assist you, and we’d be glad to speak with you about our estate planning services and to answer any questions that you may have. Don’t forget to download our FREE Estate Planning Guide