Dear Estate Planning Clients:

We are aware of the current fear and uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) especially for our older clientele, and our younger clients who fear passing the virus to older or fragile family  members. We are doing our part to avoid any unnecessary contact with clients and all future appointments will be by phone or webcam until it is again safe to resume face to face meetings.

When it comes to signing estate planning documents, it may be necessary to get certain documents signed even under the current circumstances. We have some solutions that you may want to consider if you are in this position and want, or need, powers of attorney, health care directives, living wills and Last Wills created and signed.

Many documents are valid without a notary and can be executed in your home, some with family members as witnesses. We always use what we refer to as “disinterested witnesses” in our firm which is considered a best practice. However, in times like this we can simply execute documents as required by Florida law.

If you need to sign a power of attorney, or a will, then you need a notary. For those documents you can do either of the following:

1. Come to our office parking garage and stay in your car. We will hand you the documents in a sealed envelope where they have been sitting for at least 72 hours. You will open the documents, sign them while we watch, we will sign while you watch, and then put them back in the envelope where they will sit another 72 hours before we scan them. After scanning we will seal them up for another 72 hours, and then mail out to you.

2. Come to our office where you will be in our conference room alone with your documents. We have glass doors, so we do not have to be in the same room with you, only watch you sign. The documents will be sealed for 72 hours prior as stated above and we will use the same method to assure your completed documents arrive to your home germ free.

3. Come to our office where your documents will be waiting outside for your signature. Just knock when you arrive, we will watch you sign the documents through our front window. We will then take the documents and sign them inside our office. Once completed, you may leave and the documents will be mailed to you after 72 hours.

4. Come to our office and if you give me verbal authority, via the door or on your cell phone, I can execute your documents for you as notary. The Elder Law Joint Task Force prepared an affidavit for use during this unprecedented time that would explain why this is necessary.  Currently as a notary I can execute documents for a client who is “physically unable to sign”.  We are taking the position that this would qualify as a time when, due to the circumstances, a client may be physically unable to sign for fear of contamination.

If you need health care directives or living wills signed which do not require a notary, you can do
the following:

1. Come to our office and we will execute as above based on your choice; or,
2. We will mail signature ready documents to you and you can execute at home, following the instructions enclosed. I would only use this method if you have friends, or neighbors who can assist from a distance using the method above. Once signed you will need to mail or scan a signed copy to our office for your file.

NOTE: There are witness restrictions on health care documents, so it would be important to have at
least one witness who is not related by blood or marriage, and the surrogate, and any alternates named
in the document cannot serve as a witness.

NOTE: A will, or revocable trust does not have to be notarized to be valid, but if the need for probate
arose, we would need to prove it up by having witnesses sign an affidavit. Although not preferred, a will
or revocable trust can be signed and witnessed and is valid without a notary, and the witnesses do not
have to be “disinterested”, meaning family, even if mentioned in the will, can witness.

After signing, and prior to mailing out documents, we will send you PDF copies of all documents.  Copies will also be mailed to any family members you request. Original documents are not needed to act under a power of attorney or health care directive.

For those of you who have loved ones in independent living, assisted living, or nursing homes, until the order is lifted, we cannot enter a facility to execute documents. We worked with one facility who agreed to have a resident sign documents we emailed to the business office. Once signed they were scanned and emailed to our office and the originals were mailed to family. Last week we were allowed to enter a Hospice facility to get a document signed. They took our temperature when entering, and we followed all required safety precautions.

So, if an urgent matter arises, I will do my best to make some arrangements with the facility to get a document executed and under the circumstances I feel we could work out a solution if needed.

If you have any concerns or see the need for something to be executed, please know that we will do our best to accommodate you and use all precautions to keep you and ourselves safe.

As one of the essential businesses still open, we are here to assist our clients in any way possible until this situation clears, and we can get back to our “normal” lives and way of working.

Please take care and contact us with any questions.