Dear Clients and Friends:
We hope this finds you safe and well.
Because we serve older populations, we are especially concerned about protecting our clients, friends and ourselves from coronavirus exposure and the risk of contracting COVID-19. We want to do all we reasonably can to protect you and ourselves, while continuing to be available to meet the needs of our current and future clients. If what we’re doing seems unnecessary to some of you who read this, we sincerely hope that it turns out that way. But given the high level of uncertainty with things changing constantly, we think it’s our responsibility to take a “better safe than sorry” approach.
Accordingly, we are instituting several measures directed toward limiting physical interactions between us and current and prospective clients and family members who are assisting them with their planning, and toward being safe when such physical interactions are necessary.
A large part of this involves using available technologies that can significantly limit the need for in-person interactions. We’re already all familiar with two technologies that are very helpful in that regard: cell phones and email. Those will certainly help a great deal. What’s more, we can enhance their effectiveness, and utilize some other technologies I’ll describe below.
In the case of “in-person” meetings, we want to do all we can to reasonably limit their frequency and duration. We have a video meeting software program called Zoom which will enable us to meet with you by video conference, using any device equipped with a webcam, such as a PC, laptop, notebook, or even your cell phone. Zoom has the capability of including numerous people in a meeting. Think of it kind of like “FaceTime” or “Skype” except with much greater capabilities. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with it. It’s easy, and we’ll walk you through it.
We believe that we can use Zoom even for things like document signing meetings. We can send you the original documents, go over them with you in advance by phone as may be needed (we are also on post-production of videos we recorded going through the standard provisions of the most common legal documents we prepare), then use Zoom to supervise the signing and even witness it remotely. You can then get the signed documents to us to notarize and/or witness as needed. We will then scan in the signed version of the documents, and get the signed originals to you.
If we need to meet in person, we will want to be safe about it. We will ask and expect you to sanitize your hands when you come in, and of course after using the restroom. We will ask that only those who need to be in a particular meeting attend it, so as to limit the number of people in a room at the same time. We will wipe down the conference room table and chairs, and other surfaces you might touch, with Clorox disinfectant wipes before and after each meeting.
In the case of phone calls, with a little advance planning we can easily arrange it so that more than two people can be on a call at the same time, even if we’re all at separate locations. We’re able to coordinate that here. You’ll just need to let us know (or we’ll let you know) who all should be on a particular call.
In the case of your getting documents to us that include information we need to access or review in handling your legal matter, several options are available.
First, as my tech-savvy son let me know over the weekend, almost everyone who has a cell phone now has the ability to scan in documents and transmit them to us electronically. There is a free app available through Apple’s App Store and Google Play (where you download apps for other types of phones) called Genius Scan. Basically, you just point your phone at whatever you want to scan, take a picture of it with your phone, then it’s ready to transmit. Of course, if you or a family member has a scanner, that’s even better. For those of you who will be downloading and using the Genius Scan app, here’s a link to a helpful video tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zLP2iOPmMk&feature=youtu.be.
Second, any new client and any existing client who doesn’t already have one can get set up with a secure “client portal” through our practice management software, Practice Panther. You can use in to transmit documents to us electronically without “putting them on the internet” as email attachments. Incidentally, you can also use it to securely make payments to us, not only by credit card but also by electronic check.
Finally, for those who can’t avail themselves of other alternatives for transmitting documents to us, and need to drop them off at the office, we want to be safe as to that, keeping in mind that germs can be transmitted through contact with documents as well as with people. The first thing we would ask is that you put the documents inside some sort of enclosed bag. Even a kitchen trash bag will do; we’ll have a supply available at the front desk for your convenience. We will want you to just drop them off, and not to meet with a staff member to go through them when you do that. After waiting for the amount of time the CDC recommends, we will then scan them in (that might take a day or two), then send them to you or have you pick them up, and then when we each have a copy, we can go over them with you by phone.
If you have any suggestions for how to “make it work smoothly, but also make it safe,” we will welcome them.
Finally, and without wanting to sound alarmist, let me ask this important question: Do you have your estate planning house in order, just in case? At this time, that’s not just a matter of having a will and/or living trust in place. It’s also going to be very important for people to have powers of attorney in place so that, in the event of their incapacity, even on a temporary basis, someone will have authority to attend to their legal and financial affairs on their behalf. Think of it this way: if the stock market goes down dramatically, do you want to face being stuck, until you would recover, with the wrong investments, because no one has authority to move your retirement savings into something safer?
We can help you get an excellent estate plan in place, promptly and with as little risk of coronavirus exposure as possible. Just let us know.
Thanks so much for your time and kind attention.