Covid-19: We Are Open for Business with Safety Modifications

March 24, 2020

LAST UPDATED: January 4, 2021

Due to Covid-19, recognizing that we serve many clients who need extra precautions to stay safe, Wokwicz Law Offices, LLC, continues to implement safety measures as detailed below.  We plan to continue to follow these safety procedures until it becomes clear that the risk of virus transmission is no longer a concern for our immune compromised clients and community.

Give Yourself Peace of Mind

A properly crafted estate plan can give you peace of mind, knowing your assets and family are well protected. Our estate planning lawyers will help you get there.

We apologize in advance for any inconveniences that these procedures may present. Rest assured that these changes to our routines are to keep the community and our clients as safe as possible.

Our experience over the past ten months has been enlightening. Through the use of phone calls or video conferencing, and emailing or mailing drafts of documents to clients prior to a phone call or video conference document review, we have realized that we can provide superior legal estate planning and probate services to the Kenosha and Racine area, while still keeping everyone safe. Many of our clients have preferred the ability to discuss their legal needs with an attorney from the comfort of their own homes. We have found that phone calls or Zoom video conferencing have both been very effective for initial and document review meetings.

Procedure Modifications During Covid-19

We want to serve our clients while also keeping our community and clients safe. We know that estate planning is always important and even more so during these trying times. We continue to provide estate planning, trust administration, and probate services, while mitigating the potential for exposure and infection. Therefore, we have in place a number of procedures to continue to serve our clients’ needs in as safe a manner as possible.

Please Call for Your Estate Planning Needs

As we are accepting phone call and video conference appointments, we can begin the estate planning process without an in-person meeting. Please call our office – 262-658-2181 – for your estate planning, trust, last will and testament, power of attorneys, probate and trust administration needs.  We have found that phone call meetings or Zoom meetings have been very effective and have allowed us to continue to provide the highest quality legal services to our clients.

As we often share with our clients, estate planning is a process. We can start that process now through telephone and video conferencing meetings, review documents by way of phone and video meetings, and as needed we can provide socially distanced client document signing meetings. It is still necessary to have a short, socially distanced signing meeting for estate planning documents, after drafts have been prepared and reviewed via phone call meetings or video meetings. Wisconsin law still requires that estate planning documents such as trusts, wills, and power of attorneys be notarized and witnessed in person. However, we have modified our procedures to make the signing process as safe as possible. We will discuss our signing meeting procedures further as we talk about and work on your estate plan or other documents.

No Visitors Without Appointments

We do not allow “drop in” appointments. We ask that only those with an “in office” signing meeting come to our office. We ask that you call or email our office instead of dropping in to see us without an appointment. We have implemented this procedure to minimize the number of people entering our office – as a safety measure for everyone.

We ask that when dropping off documents at our office, that you call us in advance to arrange  leaving documents in our mailbox in the lobby of our building or to arrange for hand delivery.

First Meetings and Information Gathering

We conduct non-signing meetings by way of telephone or video conferencing using Zoom. Normally, we prefer to meet in person for initial meetings for a number of reasons. However, at this time the benefits of initial in-person meetings outweigh the risks. We will therefore work with our clients and prospective clients to conduct first meetings remotely via telephone or video conferencing. We can gather the necessary information and discuss the necessary estate planning, probate, and trust administration issues and goals remotely.

We will obtain necessary documents from you via mail, email, or drop off, depending upon the clients’ comfort level and the information that we need.

We have found that this process has worked well for our clients and many prefer to discuss their estate planning needs and review estate planning drafts from the comfort of their homes. In fact, this process has worked so well, that we plan to continue to offer it as an option after the Covid-19 crisis has passed.

Signing Meetings

Certain estate planning documents require notaries or witnesses and cannot be competed remotely under Wisconsin law. Certain rules relaxing in-person notary laws do not apply to Wisconsin estate planning documents such as trusts, durable power of attorneys, and other documents. Last Wills and Testaments must be witnessed, in person by two witnesses under Wisconsin law and cannot be witnessed remotely. Therefore, signing meetings still need to be in person. That said, we offer in-car signing meetings as discussed more fully below and socially distanced signing meetings.

After we have reviewed your documents via a phone or via a video conference meeting, an in -person signing meeting will need to take place. Signing meetings, although in person, are  socially distanced and with the sole purpose of signing original documents. Since we will have already provided our clients with document drafts and since we have already reviewed documents with our client, in advance of the signing meeting, the signing meeting is a relatively short meeting.

Maintaining Best Practices for Signing Meetings

We have always required that we meet alone with the client when signing estate planning documents. This is a best practice and a requirement that we always follow. By rigorously following this practice, as estate planning attorneys, we can always attest that we met alone with the client – and that the client was not pressured or unduly influenced when signing documents such as trusts, wills, or power of attorney documents.

We’ve been practicing law a long time. Our Founder, Paul F. Wokwicz, has been an attorney for over 60 years. His son, and our Lead Attorney and Owner, Paul B. Wokwicz, has practiced law for over 27 years. Over these combined 87+ years of practicing law, we have always been able to testify that a client was alone with us, and able to freely converse with us without any other people around during each and every estate planning signing meeting. This is a crucial rule that we cannot bend and will continue to follow.

In-Car Signing Meetings

As mentioned above, we will offer in-car signing meetings where appropriate and needed. However, even during in-car signing meetings, any non-client in the vehicle will need to leave the vehicle – and the immediate area. We will insist on this best practice even for in-car signings. Over the last 10 months, most of our clients have signed documents in our office. However, signing in your car is a signing option that we offer to provide additional social distancing and safety.

Our Plan to Continue Serving Our Clients’ Needs – A Summary of Our Procedures:

The procedures that we have in place to best serve our Kenosha and Racine clients estate planning, trust administration and probate needs, while mitigating exposure to the coronavirus, as are follows:

  1. We will be limiting persons entering our office, keeping a safe distance when in the office, wear masks, sanitize surfaces, washing hands, and regularly using hand sanitizer. We will follow health recommendations from the government health officials.
  2. We will not allow employees of Wokwicz Law Offices, LLC, or clients who are experiencing a cough, fever, or shortness of breath, or who has experienced any of these symptoms within the past fourteen days to come into our office. We require that anyone who has experienced a cough, fever, or shortness of breath within 14 days of any appointment, notify us to request a new appointment.
  3. Due to the current health situation, we will conduct all first meetings via telephone or video conferencing (Zoom). We will collect initial estate planning or probate information via email, phone, mail, or drop off as necessary and practical.
  4. Under current law, we cannot avoid a meeting to sign estate planning documents such as wills, trusts, powers or attorney and related items. Although there is an emergency notary procedure, it does not apply for Wisconsin estate planning documents. We will, however, discuss documents remotely before a signing meeting where appropriate.
  5. For signing meetings, if requested, clients can sign while in their own car in our parking lot. As notaries and witnesses, we will stand outside of the car, take the documents back from the client, witness, and take the documents back to our office for processing and scanning. We will require that any non-client in a vehicle to leave the vehicle and immediate area during the signing meeting.
  6. In-office signing meetings are socially distanced and everyone will wear a mask.  These meetings are kept to signing only to limit unnecessary contact.  We will discuss this process more during our phone call or video conferences.
  7. Clients are invited to use their own pens to sign documents, or, we will offer pens to clients that clients can take with them when done signing.
  8. We will review documents such as trusts, wills, deeds, power of attorneys, and other probate or estate planning documents by way of telephone or video conferencing before our signing meeting. However, even though already reviewed, we will still provide a socially distanced summary of what is being signed and point out items of importance during the signing meeting.  However, prior to the signing meeting, we will have already reviewed drafts of your documents with you, in detail, via a phone call meeting or video conference.
  9. We ask clients and others not to drop into our office. Please call our office instead. We ask that clients and others only come to the office if they have a signing appointment. We seek to limit unnecessary foot traffic in our office to keep our clients safe. So, if you are asked to leave and call, please do not be offended. We love and care about our clients, and we need to be as safe as we can while still providing high quality legal services.

Our Estate Planning Services Will Continue – in a Slightly Different Way

We will do our best to keep our clients, employees, and community safe. We will take actions necessary to help protect everyone involved in the estate planning process. Let’s stay safe and help get past this crisis by decreasing the spread of this awful virus in our community.

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This article is intended as general legal information and not as legal advice to any particular client, nor is it intended as advice on any particular issue or matter. If you have any questions regarding the subject matter of this article, or wish to discuss how the subject matter of this article may apply to your situation, please contact us.