News and Articles From the Law Office of Catherine Leas P.C.
Check out our news and articles below to stay up-to-date on important information. We’ve provided these resources because we believe it’s in your best interest to be as informed as possible.
Electronic Wills: Coming to Arizona Soon, But Not Too Soon.
The Arizona Electronic Will Statute was recently enacted by the Arizona Legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, but will not become effective until June 30, 2019. The Arizona law reflects the trend begun by the so-called “E-sign Act” enacted by Congress in 2000, which recognizes electronic signatures on a number of types of legal documents. The E-sign Act permitted the States to implement their own variations of the Act, but specifically excludes wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts. Recently, however, a number of States have been trying to implement their own electronic will legislation. In May of 2017, the Florida legislature adopted an Electronic Wills Act, but Governor Scott vetoed the Act after expressing the importance of finding “the right balance between providing safe-guards to protect the will-making process from exploitation and fraud while also incorporating technological options that make wills financially accessible”.
After June 30, 2019, in Arizona, a Will Maker, the Witnesses, and Notary will all be able to sign a digital document electronically, but they must all be physically present with the Will Maker at the same time just as is required now with an old-fashioned paper Will. Much of the law deals with keeping the Electronic Will safe. While an original paper Will is usually kept by the attorney, the Will Maker, or another trusted person, an electronic Will must be kept by a Qualified Custodian (QC). A QC cannot be the Will Maker, spouse, kids, anyone related by blood, marriage, or adoption to the Will Maker, or anyone named as a recipient under the Will. The QC must be able to keep electronic records in a system that protects the Will from destruction or alteration. The QC’s records must also include a photo of the Will Maker and the Witnesses on the date of execution, copies of the identifying documents (passports, driver’s license, etc.) and a video recording of the signing. If the QC is no longer able to serve as QC, there are particular requirements for finding another QC to maintain the records. Given the additional requirements to execute an electronic Will and the need for a QC to maintain the Will until the Will Maker’s death on a secured system, we will not know the practical effects of this law. We can only wait and see what happens in other States in the meantime.
The Difference Between a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order and a Living Will- More Than the Color of the Form
People often confuse living wills with Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders. Both are a type of health care directive that involves end-of-life decision making, but the similarity ends there. To best illustrate the difference between the two, imagine a scenario in which Emergency Medical Services are called to a residence because someone has fallen and lost consciousness. If the person has a DNR order on an orange background signed by the person or the person’s agent and also signed by the person’s doctor, and the EMS personnel are shown that form, the EMS services will not attempt any lifesaving interventions or treatment. If they are not shown a DNR, the EMS personnel will attempt to revive the patient with CPR and other interventions, and if they are able to stabilize the patient, they will transport the patient to the ER where the patient may even make a full recovery. If, however, after a period of time the medical team finds that the patient is not likely to regain any quality of life, then a living will provides the authority to withhold or withdraw life support measures. The living will provides the patient with a chance for recovery that the DNR would not have provided. This makes a DNR more appropriate for a person who is already failing and for whom intrusive life saving measures would do far more harm with little possible good.
Recommended Reading – not law related
During the 45-minute drives between my office and my Wickenburg home, I listen to Audible Books, and one recent book I finished was “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World,” by Jack Weatherford. This book is a fascinating look at the rise and fall of the Mongol Empire of the 13th Century and describes how, once the Mongol Empire was established by conquest, the Khans turned to practical governance. They created the first known international mail system and established the first common currency utilized throughout the Empire which spanned most of Asia and reached far into what is present-day Europe. While extremely skilled and ruthless warriors, the Mongols were an essentially classless society in which people were valued primarily for their skills. As Emperors, the Khans employed people of all religions and spiritual practices and made sure that within their empire, no religion or spiritual practice was supported over another. In fact, the religious freedom that was a hallmark of the Mongol Empire was a stark contrast that of its neighbors, the Caliphates and the Roman Catholic Church-Empire. The same belief that government should not be involved in the religion of its people was implemented four hundred years later by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, in particular, the First Amendment.
‘We are Humans First, Lawyers Second’
Having grown up in a large family of musicians, Catherine Leas loves music but lacked the sheer determination required to practice the many hours daily required to succeed in music as a career. Therefore, in 1990 at the age of 37, she applied to and was accepted by Arizona State University College of Law.
At the time her husband, Jeff, was supportive and her children – Amber, 10, and Christopher, 8 – took her role as a full-time student in stride.
“After graduation, I considered my options, mindful that I had a different mindset at age 40 than I had in my mid-20s,” Leas says. “I could not be happy giving up my choice of which cases I accepted or how to work on the cases. Renting an office within an executive suite in Scottsdale, I started a solo practice in estate planning and probate. As fate or synchronicity would have it, my suite-mates were all women lawyers who were generous with their time. We became good friends, sharing practice tips, ideas and war stories.”
Leas started her solo practice in elder law in Sun City in 1997. Today, she shares her office space with two other women attorneys – with whom she has also developed a close professional and friendly relationship.
Other support comes through connections made at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Arizona Chapter and the Special Needs Alliance. “These organizations are full of inspiring and wonderful attorneys, most of whom do not self-identify as lawyers first but as human beings who have many wonderful facets, and who by the way, also practice law. It is a subtle difference, but important, and can be applied to other areas as well.”
In 2008, after experiencing tremors and stiffness in her right hand and arm, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Deep brain stimulation surgery reduced the tremors and stiffness dramatically, but her symptoms continued to progress and require prescription medications for management.
“I realized that, while Western medicine does have wonderful interventions, it relies upon a model of disease management that treats people as a bundle of symptoms rather than as an otherwise healthy human being experiencing those symptoms,” she says. “One has to go to alternative medicine for information about how to create health starting with the whole person.”
After implementing a regular meditation practice and reading books such as “You Are the Placebo” and “Becoming Supernatural” both by Dr. Joe Dispenza, Leas became aware that we all have a very sophisticated inner technology that we can learn to access and use to trigger our own natural healing processes.
“Some of this knowledge has been previously lost or forgotten but is now being rediscovered. For me, this meant Tai Chi, Chi Gong, meditation, a good diet, and maintaining presence whenever possible,” she says. “Contrary to the expectations of Western medicine, I have moderated and even reversed my tremors and stiffness while eliminating all prescription medications.”
Through it all, she has developed a satisfying legal practice by remember that she is a human being first and a lawyer second.
“Co-creating my own healing required more than just believing that we are so much more than a cluster of symptoms requiring management. It also required sheer will and determination. Like music, that is something that must be practiced, nurtured, and developed over time.”