Social distancing in dealing with lawyer
April 25, 2020 6:02 AM   Subscribe

My state doesn't do eClosings. We're supposed to meet our lawyer face to face. How can we maintain 6 feet social distancing during a real-estate closing? Other tips to make this as safe as possible?
posted by spacefire to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bring gloves, mask and your own pen. Bring a slick folder or box that you can slide documents across a 6 ft table in.

Not sure if both you and the other party need to be in the room w title agent at same time, at least not for all of it. Seek clarity in advance.
posted by cacao at 6:18 AM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

My brother closed on a property this week and the agent came to his home. My brother set up 2 lawn chairs on the front yard with a table in between and they performed the transaction outside. Sturdy clip for the papers, gloves for the passing between. Each person had their own pen.

Keep in mind that you don't have to be at the table at the same time. You don't have to be face to face looking at the document at the same time. You can move your chair all the way back against the wall or door, or leave the door open and stand back as far as you like. The lawyer can reference a page of the document and then you ask them to stand back while you approach the desk to read/sign it.
posted by CathyG at 7:03 AM on April 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'd start by checking your lawyer's website or FB page to see if they've shared a procedure for in-person-meetings. The lawyers I know who deal with these kinds of situations are pretty concerned about this and working on solutions.

The CDC recommends meeting in open air or in a well-ventilated area when FTF is necessary.

This article on the NC* bar association website has this:
Wear gloves and a mask – provide them for the principal signers also
Eliminate physical contact – do not shake hands
Do not share pens – have them bring their own, sanitize after usage or gift them
Keep a safe distance from the principal at all times (minimum of 6 feet) – Standing at the opposite ends of a 6’ conference table or passing documents through a bank teller’s glass window satisfies the personal appearance requirement
Do not touch the identification – view it from the desk/table top
Arrange the documents such that each document needing to be notarized is grouped together, the amount of time being spent with the signer can be dramatically reduced
Have the signer sign all signatures that require an acknowledgment prior to meeting the notary (Acknowledged signatures do not need to be signed in front of the notary they simply must be acknowledged)
Identify each page requiring a signature to be notarized prior to the notarial act so you can have the signer acknowledge each signature simultaneously i.e. “Do you acknowledge that you willingly signed page 2, 4, 6, 8 & 12?”

If your lawyer doesn't seem to be on top of it, you could be prepared to do most of these things yourself - bringing own pen as suggested above, asking that your ID not be touched, etc.

This article from the Rocket Mortgage seems a little outdated (since it suggests postponing meetings where one party has been to a place with an outbreak, which now seems laughable). But you could use some elements - ask your lawyer if they've been doing a lot of FTF, how they're practicing social distancing, if they've had any symptoms, etc. And of course share the same information about yourself.

*I'm not sure how I wound up in the NC Bar Association website; however I didn't find anything in a quick search targeted to the home state you named in prior questions.
posted by bunderful at 7:18 AM on April 25, 2020 [4 favorites]

Face to face doesn't mean close up in an office.

We just had a notary visit for our refinance. He dropped the documents at our door, stood at the sidewalk and verified our IDs vis text.

We signed all the documents from our patio and the notary was in his car the whole time.
posted by Karaage at 8:24 AM on April 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

My mom's a real estate paralegal, and they've been doing one-party-at-a-time closings. Her office has a large conference room that coincidentally was pretty sparsely decorated and is just inside the door. The attorney sits at the far end of the conference table, one party comes in and does their thing, then they disinfect all surfaces, and the second party comes in. She didn't mention if they're wearing masks, but she makes masks, so I assume they are.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:55 AM on April 25, 2020

We had a notary come over yesterday. It was warm and sunny so we all just sat outside at a very long table in the garden, wiped the pens and IDs down with bleach wipes, and slid the documents back and forth.
posted by tangerine at 10:17 AM on April 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

I did a will signing at a park. Everybody wore masks and gloves and brought their own pens. The documents were on a clipboard and once everything was done we deposited the clipboard in a bag, put the bag in the back of the car, threw away the gloves, then left the bag for three days before touching it.
posted by HotToddy at 10:33 AM on April 25, 2020

If the next thing you do is wash or sanitize your hands, I don't think you need gloves. Gloves are better as PPE when the thing you're touching will damage your skin or be absorbed. This is only my opinion, but I do have decades of experience in sampling hazardous waste and contaminated soil and groundwater.
posted by hypnogogue at 1:47 PM on April 25, 2020

I recently did a will signing in my lawyers backyard. A few patio tables, some rocks to weight down the paper, everyone brought their own pens and wore gloves and masks.
posted by slateyness at 1:55 PM on April 25, 2020

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