These days as a Notary, I sometimes feel a bit like an island.
Before COVID-19, personal planning clients would book a time to come into my office. I would spend at least an hour with them to gather their ID and discuss the pertinent details around their personal-planning needs.
With the arrival of COVID, I quickly transitioned my personal-planning clients to Zoom or Facetime, a new way to conduct business. The first appointment is conducted remotely to minimize contact with people.
During the virtual appointment, I ask the client:
- are you alone;
- may I take a picture of your ID;
- may I take your picture, too?
I save those pictures to the client’s file.
My clients now have these options.
- They can email me copies of their ID that I verify during our Zoom appointment.
- If clients are uncomfortable emailing ID, I provide the option where they can come to the office to quickly meet with me (in safety) while I scan their ID.
If the person is a repeat client, I confirm that their valid ID is on file in my office.
How do I ensure there is no undue influence in the Will process?
I ask clients if are they alone and (if possible) to scan the room with their camera so I can see that no one else is present.
Since my goal is to minimize contact, I now email draft documents for them to review in their home. The draft documents are password protected—passwords are emailed in a separate message.
I arrange for a second Zoom meeting where I can share my screen and go through each document with the clients, page by page and clause by clause, and answer any questions they may have. I make changes to the documents on screen, if required. I ask if I may take a picture of the client to confirm I reviewed the documents virtually. Next, I ask the clients to come to my office. I print and assemble the final reporting package so we are all ready to sign, scan, and copy the documents. I have reconfigured my office to create a signing destination near my front door with plexiglass between us. I ask my clients to wear a mask. They appreciate the extra precautions.
I am truly amazed by how well many of my clients have adapted to the new processes. Even my senior clients have adapted to Zoom appointments.
Connection with My Peers
Before our office got crazy for the day, I recently hosted a virtual morning coffee session with five Notaries in various locations across our province. It is fascinating to learn that each of us is adapting to the COVID situation slightly differently. I appreciate connecting with and learning from other Notaries. One thing that is true for all of us is that everything takes longer now - at least 25 per cent more time.
Overall, this pandemic has been a very trying time for many. For me, it has focused my energy to be more adaptable, to learn different tools to communicate with clients and peers, and to reexamine what is important to me . . . so I can prioritize my work and personal life.
Morrie Baillie is a BC Notary that practises in Victoria.
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