The legal needs of New Mexicans did not go away when COVID-19 came calling and disrupted everyone’s lives. In fact, the virus made legal issues more urgent, particularly for individuals who needed an estate plan or Powers of Attorney. Many of our clients are older adults, one of the most at-risk groups for the virus. Rather than delay addressing their concerns, we had to spring into action and learn how to adapt the way we provided legal services to our high-risk clients.
We meet with our clients now using Zoom video conferences or by telephone. Our clients can attend to the process of discussing their estate planning issues or any other legal need without leaving their homes. Early on in the COVID -19 saga, Governor Lujan Grisham signed an order allowing notary publics to observe someone signing a document by a video conference and affixing the notary signature and seal at a later time. That change has been significant, as we can now offer our clients the opportunity to sign their legal documents at home with us watching on video. Another option is for our clients to come to the lobby of our building. The notary and two witnesses required for a Will can observe the signing process from a safe social distance. We have even had lawyers or staff go to the client’s house and watch our client sign documents from the front porch. Difficult times call for creative solutions.
Our clients who live in facilities pose challenges which have not been easy to resolve. With the restrictions on visitation in long term care facilities, we cannot meet in person with those clients. However, window visits, telephone conferences, and video conferences are options for those clients who are able to participate in those ways. The isolation of these individuals is particularly concerning. For an individual with cognitive impairment, who may not understand the pandemic, there is significant uncertainty, anxiety, and even deterioration in mental or physical condition. For those of you with loved ones in facilities, I encourage the window visits and outside visits now allowed. The quarantine requirements for this vulnerable population has had devastating effects.
The courts are open and are holding hearings in guardianship, probate, and other litigation cases. Hearings are held by telephone or video conference and are proceeding smoothly. In guardianship cases, the alleged incapacitated persons are able to participate by telephone or video, often with the assistance of a caregiver.
We remain committed to resolving our clients’ legal needs and observing all safe COVID practices. Until the pandemic is under control or out of our lives altogether, we will find creative and appropriate solutions to assist our clients.
If you have been putting off meeting with an attorney, we encourage you to reach out to your attorney to see how they are handling client appointments, or call our office at (505)872-0505 to schedule a video conference or teleconference with one of our attorneys.