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Q&A with William C. Ferry, Estate Planning Attorney at Y&D

Y&D: What was the most challenging part of conducting your Estate Planning practice while Ohio’s Stay at Home Order was in place?

The most challenging task, even in normal times, is the “signing ceremony.”

Y&D: How did you overcome the challenges faced during the signing ceremony?

While some documents require only that I notarize the signature of my client, others, such as a Last Will & Testament, require witnesses, who must be in the “conscious presence of the testator” while it is signed. In usual times, papers and pens are sent around the table and the client, the witnesses, and the lawyer are in close proximity. But in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all wearing masks and sitting far apart. I also provided clean pens (pre-cleaned with alcohol) from a zip-lock bag, and wore a mask, had gloves, and even a discard bag for used pens, gloves, etc.

Y&D: What were some of your other successes while working remotely?

An easier task while COVID-19 restrictions were in place was my “drive-by” notary service! A client needed a document notarized for a mortgage loan application. He drove by my home, stopped in front, and I witnessed him signing the document through his car window. He slipped the document to me through the window and I notarized it on the hood of his car! Again, mask, gloves, a cleaned pen—and no automobile finishes were damaged, nor clients or attorneys sickened! (However, it is worth noting that Ohio now allows for online notarizations, which I have been learning more about.)

I’ve always been somewhat of a techie, co-chairing our firm’s Tech Committee, but using Skype, Zoom, Facebook, WhatsApp and other such communication tools, to the extent we’ve had to during the COVID-19 crisis, really sharpened my skills. There’s an etiquette and some skill involved in participating or conducting an online meeting. I’m glad I had the opportunity to add these new ways of communicating to my toolbox.

Y&D: Now that many of Ohio’s restrictions and the Stay at Home Order have been lifted, how do you plan on keeping clients safe moving forward when conducting your practice?

While I think all of us are anxious to have the world return to some sort of normal, there is still the concern that COVID-19 is still among us and moving around. I would not want to be the person who brings it to a client, or be the person who brings it to my office or my home from a client. So I think until COVID-19 sinks into the background like all the common maladies, I will continue taking the precautions described above (social distancing while signing, wearing masks, gloves, clean pens, discard bags, etc.)—mostly out of respect for my clients, but also for my co-workers and family.

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