Suppose you need to sign a new will, trust, and powers of attorney. It is important that you get this project completed during the current national health crisis. But what signing safeguards should you look for to help protect your safety?
At Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd., we share your concern over the possibility of inadvertent transmission of infectious agents. We are working hard to get your documents signed quickly, efficiently — and safely.
Precautions we take during signings
For many of the documents making up your estate plan, you will need a notary and two witnesses to watch you sign — or to hear you tell them that you have signed. You may be comfortable with the relatively low risk inherent in coming to our office for the signing. But even if you are comfortable with that option, we have implemented several signing safeguards to help protect you. And we will let you choose to be even more cautious if you prefer.
We wipe down surfaces in our front office and conference rooms before and after each visit. But if you are concerned about taking even that level of risk, we have other options. We are happy to arrange for a “drive-by” signing — we won’t even make you get out of your car. Or you can sit outdoors and have the witnesses and notary stand an appropriate distance away while you sign.
Some signing safeguards we will use in every case
Regardless of how or where we handle the signing, we take protective steps. As noted above, we wipe down every surface you might come in touch with, using either a bleach-based or an alcohol solution.
In some cases, we will even print the documents at least 72 hours in advance and arrange things so that no one handles the documents before you sign. Witnesses will remain at a safe distance and will witness and/or notarize separate pages from the main document you sign. All our staff will wear gloves for the signing ceremony, and only the one staff member supervising the signing will actually handle the documents.
We have long provided a new sanitized pen to each client signing a document. That helps minimize your contact with anything touched by anyone else in the office. And we can mail the signed original documents to you three days (or more) later, so that you will not have to worry about who might have handled documents during scanning, copying and collation.
Why can’t we just use the mail?
Could we just mail (or deliver) the documents to you and then 72 hours later have you open the envelope and have family and/or caregivers sign as witnesses? In theory, yes — but Ohio law has a set of complicated requirements about who can and cannot witness the various documents.
To complete a set of estate planning documents, you would generally have to find two witnesses who aren’t related to you, don’t receive anything from your will, and aren’t involved in your medical care. And then you would need a notary, too. That might be difficult.
For documents that require a notarization, such as a Trust, a financial power of attorney, a health care power of attorney, and living will, we may be able to arrange an online notarization of these documents. This requires that we set up a video conference where we can obtain suitable verification of your identity, and visually observe you signing the documents. Unfortunately, Ohio law does not allow the signing of a last will and testament virtually at this point, and you would still need to arrange proper witnesses to a will.
Please don’t put it off!
We know you are concerned about safety. We are, too — our signing safeguards are intended to protect our staff just as much as we protect you. Please don’t put off signing your wills, trust and powers of attorney out of concern for exposure. Let us help you get the signing of these important papers completed safely.