The Hull & Hull weekly webinar: a summary

June 1, 2020 Sydney Osmar Estate & Trust, Estate Planning Tags: 0 Comments

As many of our blog readers will know, Ian Hull, Jordan Atin and Suzana Popovic-Montag have been working hard during the pandemic to host weekly webinars in efforts to increase resource sharing and practice management tips.

I have had the opportunity to help out with this endeavour, and have attended each webinar to date. Many helpful practice tips and resources have been shared, so I thought it may be useful to provide an overview summarizing some of the main takeaways that have been touched upon to date:

Virtual and Counterpart Execution of  Wills/POAs

  • After swift responses from the Attorney General of Ontario, Wills and POAs can now be witnessed virtually, and, executed in counterpart for the duration of the pandemic. Of course, the Emergency Order does not set out explicitly how to do so. Therefore, Ian and Jordan have attempted to outline best practices on how to accomplish the virtual and counterpart execution of Wills and POAs. Jordan has prepared a detailed blog setting out the process he uses, providing links to helpful checklists which can be found here.
  • Some further tips discussed include circulating locked versions of the documents to be executed with a unique identifier so that the solicitor can ensure everyone is working off the same document.
  • While the Emergency Order has opened up the possibility for counterpart and remote execution of Wills and POAs, clients should be encouraged to re-sign their Wills and POAs when in-person meetings can resume.

Holograph Wills and the use of an Amanuensis

  • Some early discussions in the webinar series, before counterpart and remote execution was a possibility, focused on the possible use of holograph wills, or the use of an amanuensis (signing a testator’s Will, on their behalf, at their direction).
  • Jordan has summarized these discussions in two blogs. To learn more about the use of holograph wills, see here. To learn more about the use of an amanuensis, see here.

Avoiding Claims

  • An important topic that has been touched on throughout the webinar series is avoiding LawPRO claims in a COVID-19 world. While much thought has been given to the actual execution and witnessing of Wills and POAs during the pandemic, practitioners should not let their regular practice management fall to the back burner. Regardless of COVID-19, LawPRO claims continue to result from errors such as: inadequate investigation, miscommunication, errors of law and poor time management.
  • Now with the increasing necessity to take Will planning instructions by phone or video conference, heightened steps need to be taken to ensure that both client and solicitor understand the client’s instructions and intent, as well as testing for things like capacity and undue influence. WEL Partners have prepared a checklist for indicators of undue influence during virtual meetings which can be found here.

Tools and Technology for Practice Management

  • LawPRO has prepared a resource page which includes links to various tools, articles, checklists and other resources which can be accessed by practitioners.
  • E-State Planner – one of the many ways in which E-State Planner can be used to avoid claims, regardless of COVID-19, is by providing the client with visuals. Using visual aids while taking instructions ensures that there is an understanding between client and solicitor, right from the spelling of names to the actual impact their instructions have on the distribution of the estate.
  • Virtual Web Conferencing Systems – while there are many options to choose from, it is clear that the web conferencing has become a significant part of the daily practice of law, one which is likely to stay. Whether using Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or any of the many other systems available, lawyers should take the opportunity now, to familiarize themselves with web conferencing. In particular, screen sharing, which has become integral to virtual meetings, mediations, hearings, examinations and so forth, is a particular skill that should be honed.
  • Protecting privacy – as we have learned, it is extremely important to take all necessary precautions to protect privacy when utilizing web conferencing systems. Examples of such steps are: using passwords, using the “waiting room” or “lobby” feature so that the host can limit access to the meeting to authorized individuals, or, requiring registration.
  • Recordings – another unique feature of web conferencing systems is that the recording of meetings is becoming increasingly more common. While this can be helpful for ensuring that there is a complete record of instructions and advice given, it also means that lawyers will likely be held to a higher standard (as the recording will allow for greater scrutiny).
  • Inter-office communication resources – with lawyers and staff working from home, there is greater need for fostering instant communication and resource sharing inter-office. Services such as Slack can be used for both inter-office communication and file management. Slack also allows for you to add in tools and apps to assist in practice management, such as Notability, the use of check lists, work flows, and even web conferencing platforms.
  • File management in a “remote world” – with the office working from home, there is a greater need for remote office software. Programs such as Clio and Monday.com are examples of such software.

Moving Matters Forward

  • With courts limited to hearing only urgent matters, lawyers have had to get creative in how we can continue to move matters forward and continue to meet and exceed client expectations. As discussed in the webinar series, this has included (for cases that are appropriate) conducting examinations and mediations virtually. To learn more about the Estate Arbitration Litigation Management initiative spearheaded by Suzana, see here.

CPD Credits

Finally, as we have had a regular and significant turn out to the weekly webinar series, I would like to remind all participants that they qualify for CPD credits for having attended the webinars. In case you missed which credits you are eligible for, please see below:

  • Webinar 1 – March 27, 2020: 15 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 2- April 3, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 3 – April 11, 2020: 30 mins substantive, 30 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 4 – April 17, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 5 – April 23, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 6 – April 24, 2020: 15 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 7 – May 1, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 8 – May 8, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 9 – May 15, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 10 – May 22, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism
  • Webinar 11 – May 29, 2020: 45 mins substantive, 15 mins professionalism

Thanks for reading!

Sydney Osmar

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