When the Governor issued a list of essential services that included legal services, my office was relieved. The number of people who need legal assistance has actually increased in many ways, especially in my area during this pandemic, elder law. Statistics show as much as 80% of deaths in China were over the age of 60. Many of my current/future clients are not directly infected with the virus but may have end-of-life cancer, or other issues such as heading into rehab or a nursing home and need our legal help immediately.
My team has always prided ourselves on being a “high tech but high touch” office; and this really has been helpful to maintain our current level of service. Dropping off documents in our large front office door slot and sharing drafts of documents via email, texting to our PCs, and the use of the cloud and remote logins to our server have been invaluable. We continue to do “curbside” signings; in fact, have done a few signings through a window at a house or nursing home to maintain social distancing. Also, there are laws being implemented in Indiana to allow remote notarization & witnessing of legal documents. We have conducted consultations with clients via phone consults and by virtual meetings (Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, etc.) to keep social distancing to keep the client and my employees safe.
Those clients who request, and understand the risks, to come in our locked office, by appointment only, must be screened before entering, including having their temperatures taken and answering questions before being allowed to enter. The office is continually sanitized.
Last month, the Maturity Journal article was regarding “triggers” that cause people to think about their mortality and estate planning. This pandemic is the largest trigger that has occurred in my lifetime and the disruption of how we conduct ourselves, today, and going forward. However, besides considering a Will/Trust or what happens with my estate after death, the main concern has been healthcare decisions-who can make if I am not able to; or to implement their wishes under different types of healthcare situations. Obviously, the Indiana Healthcare Representative/HIPAA Release/Living Will are standard documents that are mostly controlled by Indiana statutes.
I have personally put together an extensive Healthcare Letter of Instruction that gives specific guidance by a client to their healthcare representative and physician/medical providers that goes into great detail. For example, wishes regarding medications and pain killers, thoughts on experimental procedures/medications; religious preferences, keeping primary doctor involved if possible; getting second opinions before different medical events such as tests, surgery, or placement in nursing home; which long-term facility the client prefers; factors in selecting, how many times want to be visited weekly if nursing home or rehab/hospital; thoughts on costs of medical treatment and facilities, etc.
Each person’s concerns and needs are specific to them and are ascertained after an extensive confidential consultation.