In the process of a few weeks, the coronavirus has gone from an isolated disease in a distant land to a pervasive pandemic impacting us all. Over the course of one week alone, public gatherings have been reduced time and again, and now have been eliminated altogether. Store shelves are stripped, and the frenzy over the few things remaining eclipses the most aggressive “Black Friday” shopping. It is hard to know what is driven by prudence and what is the consequence of unbridled panic.
Even in calm seasons, prudence urges us to plan for life’s inevitables. Actions such as estate planning become acutely urgent in times of peril. I was deeply moved by the sight of residents in a Kirkland, Washington nursing home being separated from their loved ones and able to conduct communication only by telephone and through the window. I immediately began to wonder whether they had prepared their powers of attorney to transfer authority to manage their finances and their medical decisions, and whether they had signed a will or living trust to care for their families should they suffer death. With the doors locked, it becomes impossible to have the normal client meetings and get the paperwork signed. In the “good old days” of February, I could take the paperwork and my assistant to the nursing home and we would get everything signed in person. That is now impossible. I have contacted the state legislature and the governor’s office to initiate a change in the law to allow for remote or virtual witnessing and notarizing, and the Governor’s office has been responsive, but the problem has not been solved..
As I write this, our business has not been closed by the Governor’s order . We are still able to conduct our law practice, but the means of doing so have changed. Our preference is always to do these meetings in person. However, much of this work can still be done by telephone or remote video conference. Arrangements can be made to overcome the legal hurdles for signing documents even if it is not ideal. For example, this week we have been doing “curbside” will signings! We will adapt as necessary so you can have the documents you need prepared for your family’s sake. However, none of this matters unless you contact us and give us the opportunity to prepare your papers.
This is not the time for panic, but it is the time for prompt and prudent planning. The Orders from the Governor and the courts are changing daily. So long as we are able to do so, we will continue to answer our phones and emails, and respond to your questions and requests in order to make sure everything has been put in order whatever the future holds. I take this opportunity to offer my prayers and wishes for your good health and for all of us for a swift return of life as usual. In the meantime, we stand ready to help you prepare.