Many people are concerned about Islamic Estate Planning for themselves and their loved ones during this time. I put together these FAQs on how we help families when we are not allowed to get out of the house except for “essential business.” Doing your estate planning is not essential enough to leave your home right now. The health and safety of you, your family and our community is paramount. However, it is vital, and Islamic Inheritance is fard, and anyone can do this at home with legal counsel helping remotely. I have another series of FAQs here.
Can you do Islamic Estate Planning meetings over the phone or video conference?
Yes. When you schedule an Islamic Inheritance Appointment (which you can do online here), the meeting will be remote. We have many years of experience meeting virtually with clients throughout the United States and internationally by phone and video conference. We do the same for clients everywhere now, even those walking distance from my office.
Are you an essential business in California? Are you open these days?
Law firms are not essential in California or most places with “stay at home” orders. We need to stay at home like most people. We are still serving clients during this difficult time. In my practice, only one person is typically in the office at one time, with no clients visiting.
Ok, so I understand the initial meeting can be online or on the phone, but what about signing and reviewing documents?
As many of our clients are outside our geographic region, we have had established processes for signing, witnessing, and notarizing documents, conforming with state law in various states. We are modifying some of the methods we have been using to account for social distancing.
I will take the issues one by one.
So let’s start with reviewing documents with an Attorney
We can review documents over the phone or, more likely, through a web conference, going over PDF documents. The purpose behind reviews may be to go over older documents or to review a document before a client signs it.
Reviews of documents help clients with their peace of mind in knowing documents accomplish their goals. If there are aspects of the estate plan that do not fully achieve their goals, we can change this after a review. Doing this review over a video conference can work just as well as an in-person review.
Don’t you notarize documents? How?
Yes, estate planning typically does involve some notarization of documents. Deeds and Islamic Living Trusts are notarized. Notarization rules vary depending on the jurisdiction. Because of COVID-19, many states have issued emergency orders that allow for remote webcam-based notarizations of documents, such as living trusts and deeds. Unfortunately, California, where I live, does not have webcam notarizations.
Even so, we can do them in California using a notary from another state. Using an out of state notary is an acceptable practice under both California statute and the United States Constitution.
Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, webcam notaries are in so much demand that they are difficult to book. We can also use traditional traveling notaries to arrange a safe way to notarize using proper social distancing procedure. In California, the Secretary of State has stated that notaries can continue to notarize documents during the COVID-19 emergency.
Don’t you also need two witnesses? How is this possible?
For last wills, we do need two witnesses in most states, including California. Under Probate Code Section 6110, two witnesses either need to be present at the same time upon signing of the will or that the person or the acknowledgment that a will was signed. The witnesses need to know the thing being signed is a will. We understand being present as being in the location where the will is signed.
Witnessing is possible to do with social distancing. However, it does mean that we need to get two disinterested people to show up and stay more than six feet away from each other at the same time.
It is possible (a near certainty) that this information will be outdated as state governments modify their policies.