Trusts and Estates

Ca. Trs. & Estates Quarterly 2020, Volume 26, Issue 2


By Mark S. Poochigian, Esq.*

When I submitted my most recent column for this space in late 2019, none of us would have imagined the disruption to our personal lives and professional practices that COVID-19 would wreak in the first half of 2020.1 Of course, there is no greater consequence of the deadly virus than the suffering and death endured by so many on its account. I know that the Executive Committee of the Trusts and Estates Section (TEXCOM) shares my hope that every one of our readers and Section members has remained safe and healthy in these difficult times.

Needless to say, the practice of trusts and estates law has undergone some rapid changes in just the last weeks and months. Prior to the "stay at home" orders and "social distancing" that are prevalent today, trusts and estates practitioners would have been forgiven for thinking of the traditional document signing ceremony as an often dull matter of routine.2 However, by early to mid-March, the idea of a meeting held in an attorney’s office in the presence of the client and another witness made many attorneys and clients uncomfortable (particularly when elderly or otherwise vulnerable clients might be in attendance). Soon thereafter, such meetings would run afoul of "social distancing" guidelines promulgated by health authorities. Finally, when the first "shelter in place" orders were made in six Bay Area counties, followed closely by the closure of many law firms’ offices to members of the public and the statewide "stay at home" order, document signing meetings under the in-person supervision of an attorney became largely out of the question.

TEXCOM began to hear quickly from practitioners from around the state in mid-March regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on our practices. Some suggested emergency legislation authorizing electronic wills and remote witnessing of wills; others focused on a coveted executive order authorizing notarial acts to be performed remotely (for example, by videoconference). TEXCOM quickly mobilized on behalf of its members and the clients that they serve, and began efforts to obtain temporary relief in the area of remote notarial acknowledgments during the COVID-19 crisis. TEXCOM has been actively engaged on other issues related to COVID-19 and its effects on the courts and our practices. TEXCOM provided comment to the Judicial

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