With Covid-19 in our midst and no vaccine on the horizon, estates lawyers have had to adapt their law practices in ways that accommodate their clients in the most professional manner. Particularly, the drafting of Wills and Powers of Attorney documents have taken on a new dimension. With emergency provincial legislation enacted in April, 2020, the Ontario government now allows estate lawyers to sign wills through audio-visual technology, rather than in person. This means that wills lawyers are Zooming with their clients.
I personally have now completed a dozen Zoom will signings and would like to share some of my experiences with this process. Obviously, there are pluses and minuses in everything we do. However, the Zoom process has become a very efficient and timely way to conduct the will interview and the will signing. Although there is no in-person client contact, the use of Zoom has become the next best thing to being in-person with a client. We see each other over Zoom, maintain client confidentiality and solicitor-client privilege in our discussions, and delve into all issues that need to be covered in the will interview. And because I see the client through Zoom, I, as a trained lawyer, can still determine and assess capacity issues, especially in the elderly.
In terms of signing documents, I have incorporated special procedures to ensure the signing is done properly, meticulously and accurately under the guidelines of the legislation. I do my best to explain in great detail and very slowly the signing procedure so the client or myself make no mistakes. The only drawback when signing documents is that I cannot make changes to original documents unless documents are returned to me and we prolong the process. However, I am finding that corrections to documents are rare, as I have instituted the practice of emailing draft copies of all documents to my clients for their review prior to the Zoom signing. A additional consequence of emailing clients documents is that I have increased my communications with my clients before the final product is signed, which gives my clients further comfort and security that their documents are what they desire.
And what feedback have my clients offered me about their Zoom estate planning experience. Most clients have given positive feedback about their Zoom will experience. Clients repeatedly have expressed that they enjoyed Zooming from their home rather than travelling to the lawyer’s office. Clients appear to feel more comfortable and more receptive to what they may perceive to be an intimidating environment of the law office or the will process. Although some clients were not yet comfortable with Zoom itself, once we begin, they relax and we have fun. Finally, clients often commented that Zooming with an estates lawyer was simpler than what they had thought or believed.
So if you are thinking that now is the time to do your wills or update your estate plan, think about doing it by Zoom from the comfort of your own home with a lawyer like myself who will make the process simple, relaxing and fun, yet providing top quality and thorough legal services and advice. For more information or a thirty-minute free consultation, please feel free to contact me at my office or by email so we can arrange a Zoom call.