Life has never felt more uncertain. Many brick-and-mortar businesses are closed, most schools have called it an early summer and may go completely virtual this fall, elective medical procedures are postponed indefinitely, and millions have been laid off from work.

Here at Mountain Dearborn, although our physical office is not open for in-person client visits, we are making progress on our clients’ cases via virtual meetings and conference calls, and we’re staying current with COVID-19 updates from the courts, the legislature, and the Governor’s office.

Here’s what you can expect if you need legal assistance:

Residential Real Estate and Commercial Lending: The Markets Are Still Open Virtually

Are you looking for a home to buy or thinking of selling? A new option during the pandemic is a “drive-through closing,” where you meet with others in a parking lot, sign closing papers and go on your merry way. However, our commercial lending lawyers and our real estate lawyers favor the use of e-recorded documents and overnight mail, a process we developed prior to COVID-19, which enables us to conduct real estate transactions efficiently without necessitating face-to-face interaction.

Physical house hunting remains a challenge. Expect to wear a mask, remove shoes or cover them with disposable booties, and use hand sanitizer liberally. You may want to stick to virtual showings for now.

Please note that the pandemic has affected the mandatory smoke detector and carbon monoxide inspections prior to closing: Governor Charlie Baker passed an executive order that delays these inspections until 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted. If the parties agree to close on a property prior to this deadline, the buyer bears the burden of certifying the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

If you’d like to discuss a residential real estate matter with our lawyers, please contact Patricia F. Gates or Stephen M. Roche. For commercial lending, please contact Robin A. DeAugustinis, Henry W. Beth, or Dale R. Harger.

Estate and Tax Planning and Probate Administration: No Delays in Processing Paperwork

Our estate and tax planning practice continues to serve new and current clients who are comfortable using remote communication, including phone, email, and videoconferencing. As has been our ongoing practice, nearly all tax filings are done electronically.

For families who need guidance with estate administration, we continue to prepare the necessary paperwork and to e-file the documents with the Probate Court. We have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly the Probate Court is processing paperwork; the appointment of a Personal Representative (formerly known as an Executor), for example, has not been delayed by COVID-19 issues.

A major update for estate planning and real estate attorneys in Massachusetts occurred recently: At the end of April, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19.” This emergency legislation permits clients to sign their estate planning documents—and witnesses to watch the signing—via videoconference instead of in person. The law will expire three days after the current state of emergency ends. No one yet knows when that will happen. The state of emergency may remain in effect despite the reopening of businesses. We realize that some clients are anxious to wrap up their estate plans.

If you are interested in proceeding with a virtual signing or other aspects of estate planning, please contact our lawyers Nina T. Dow or Ann K. Molloy.

Litigation: Case Research and Development Are Ongoing, but Hearings Are Limited to “Essential” Matters

The research and development of your case are not impacted by COVID-19. Although the District and Superior Courts remain closed, they are accepting filings and docketing items by maintaining a skeleton crew at the Court. Trials and non-emergency matters have been rescheduled.

The courts are still conducting business via phone, videoconference, email, and other electronic means of communication, but in-person hearings are limited to emergencies that cannot be conducted virtually. Each trial court has issued orders that define what constitute emergencies within their jurisdiction. These include cases where personal safety is at risk, arraignments, and bail reviews.

If you have a litigation matter that you want to discuss, please contact our lawyers Paul C. Foley, Katherine A. Bagdis, or Francis J. Russell for guidance.

Your lawyers at Mountain, Dearborn & Whiting LLP wish you and your family good health and safety as we continue to work through this pandemic together.