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Scanning at the Client's Home

williamandersonwilliamanderson Stafford, VA
edited November 2016 in Practice Management

I have been seeing someone who is about to shut down their firm to go virtual and she asked this question. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Let's say I am at a client's house and they are signing their will, power of attorney and advance medical directive. We usually make copies/scan the signed copies; however, I won't be able to do so after I close the office. I don't want to take any client documents home for liability purposes. I could have them sign duplicate copies of the AMD and the POA. I am not so concerned about the will as original wills must go to probate, not copies. What do you think?


  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    Why wouldn't they be able to scan copies? There are scanner apps and portable scanners that make it easy to do so.

  • JaybrinkerJaybrinker Cincinnati

    Man, I think your friend is overthinking this.

    First, even with a "virtual" office", does she not have an office in her home with a pc and a printer/scanner? She must if she is showing up at a client's house with docs to be signed. Therefore, she could take the docs home, scan them, and mail the originals to the client. "Virtual" does not mean office tech and US postal service free.

    Second, I fail to see what liability she incurs if she takes docs home to scan them before returning them to the client. Worst case scenario is that the docs get lost in the mail after she scans them. She can have them re-executed if that happens. The extreme worst case scenario is docs get lost and client dies before re-executing, at which point they admit a photocopy of the will to probate. Nonetheless, there is no liability for the post office losing something.

    Third, if she really does not want to scan at her office, she could use a scanning app per Sam's suggestion. However, she has to think about the client experience while she scans at least 15 pages (or 30 if there is a married couple) minimum with her phone. That will be time consuming and perhaps annoying to the client who might be looking to start dinner or go pick up a kid after the will signing is done, but cannot because your friend is hunched over the kitchen table with her iPhone snapping photos of the signed docs.

    In summary, take them home, scan them, and mail them back. Put them in a nice folder for the client so they are all in one place and easily accessible by the client in the future.

  • KentonKenton Norman, OK

    I second Sam's suggestion, especially for a portable scanner. Even if it is 15 pages, a portable scanner, such as a Brother ADS (1000 or 1500) will make quick work of the pages.

    On another note - if the attorney is going virtual, why even print and have the client sign? Why not use a table for a digital signature. For an example, using the iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, the attorney could put the document in PDF Expert, Adobe DC, or other platforms, have the client review the document on the iPad, and then the client can sign the document right there on the table.

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    My guess is digital signatures aren't well tested for estate planning.

    Here's my thing about digital signatures. (tl;dr: E-signatures kind of suck when it comes to verifying the person who actually signed the document. There's no such thing as a handwriting expert, and that's extra problematic if the signing party is dead.)

  • KentonKenton Norman, OK

    I heartily agree with your previous post on Digital signatures, but I would estimate that having the client actually sign the document with a stylus abrogates the issues with "forging" an email account or using the /s/ like old school digital signatures. It is the same as if they signed the actual hard copy with a pen. It is their hand writing with the addition of an audit trail. However, I do know some judges that are very particular about handwritten signatures - wanting pen to paper instead of stylus to screen - especially for estate documents, where the original v. a copy is always at issue. It would be hard, given the current rules, to show that the digital is the real copy for a will.

  • JaybrinkerJaybrinker Cincinnati
    edited November 2016

    I was going to let this slide, but wills require an original signature.

  • You can bring two printouts and execute "duplicate originals" so both client and attorney have original signature at end of session.

  • JaybrinkerJaybrinker Cincinnati
    edited November 2016

    The duplicate originals does not work with the wills. You are only permitted to have one Last Will.

  • Adam LillyAdam Lilly Cumming, Georgia

    As someone who does estate planning, I would never take the documents with me or use a phone to "scan" documents. And @Jaybrinker is absolutely right regarding duplicate originals for wills.

    However, I see no problem with getting a portable scanner. It seems to address all concerns here. I had a one-off instance when I first started where a couple needed to execute their documents at an off-site location, and I just brought my full size ScanSnap. It wasn't ideal, but it honestly wasn't a bad situation. It took less than 30 seconds to set up.

  • Regarding the legality of "duplicate original" wills, this varies state-by-state. However, If the issue is really just wanting two copies you can still use this same method (e.g. bring two printouts with you) and just call one a "conformed copy" instead. The point is you end up with two identical documents without worrying about tech problems in a location you can't control. If the idea of two separate signatures is bothersome, bring carbon paper to put between your printouts. Seriously, every courtroom in Cook County Illinois is stocked with carbon paper to write up motions instanter.

  • JaybrinkerJaybrinker Cincinnati

    @Adam Lilly As an estate planner, why would you not want to take clients' documents with you? If they came to your office to sign them, would you not keep them, scan and copy them, then send a copy, or return the originals to the clients? What makes the experience different when signing off-site?

  • Never thought I'd see "carbon paper" used in a discussion about setting up a virtual office. This has been an interesting week.

  • Adam LillyAdam Lilly Cumming, Georgia

    @Jaybrinker In my office clients sign them, I scan them, and send the clients home with the originals - which is what I would do off site as well. And if off-site signings were a regular part of my practice, continuing to do that would easily be worth the cost of a portable scanner.

  • There are scanning apps for the iPhone or Android phones that achieve the same scan quality as an old-school portable scanner. You just need to situate yourself to avoid shadows when scanning. I use Scanbot and it will auto-upload to a folder in your cloud document storage account (Box, Dropbox, etc).

  • samgloversamglover Minneapolis, MN Admin

    I definitely don't find any reason to think a mobile scanner would be useful for jobs smaller than a dozen pages or so. An app is definitely easier. I like Scanbot, but for basic scanning you can even just use the Dropbox app now. Works quite well.

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