In these troubled Covid-19 times, when we are all concerned with the physical and financial health of ourselves and of the members of our immediate family, many of the firm’s clients have been turning to the attorneys in its Trusts and Estates Department, to have their Wills and other estate planning documents reviewed and updated. But in this era of social distancing and with many offices closed, is that even still possible? The answer happily is yes.
Information regarding the terms of a client’s revised Will, Health Care Proxy form, Living Will and Do Not Resuscitate Order form, Power of Attorney form, and Designation of Beneficiary forms can be communicated by the client to one of the firm’s estate planning attorneys, remotely by telephone, or through a Facetime, Zoom or Skype virtual meeting with them.
The proposed documents can then be prepared by the attorney, and then sent electronically to the client for his or her review.
Once the client has approved each of the documents that had been sent, they can then contact the attorney to arrange for each of the documents to executed.
In the past, the execution process usually meant obtaining the services of two or three witnesses to the execution of the client’s Will and other estate planning documents, and with a number of the signatures in each of those documents required to be notarized. In the past, the Will was usually executed by the client in the presence of the attorney, who supervised the execution ceremony, with the witnesses and notary public also in attendance.
However, under new emergency protocols that were passed by Governor Cuomo within the last few months, the requirements that both the witnesses and notary be physically present when the documents have been signed by the client, have been substantially relaxed and modified.
Executive Order 202.7, which was signed by Governor Cuomo on March 19, 2020, permits for the first time, the remote notarization of all documents, including Wills and other estate planning documents, while Executive Order 202.14, which was signed by Governor Cuomo on April 7, 2020, permits for the first time, the remote witnessing of a client’s signature on their Will.
Accordingly, the signatures of both the witnesses and notary on a client’s Will, can now be done entirely remotely, with each of those individuals, acting as witness and notary, respectively, from the safety and comfort of their own home, while the client executes their Will in the comfort and security of their own home, and with each of the client’s other estate planning documents now capable of being remotely notarized by the notary public.
Even though the rules relaxing the requirements for the witnessing and notarization of the execution of Wills and other documents are relatively new, the estate planning attorneys in the firm’s Trusts and Estates Department, have already remotely supervised the execution of a number of their clients’ Wills and other estate planning documents. In addition, in several recent cases, those same attorneys have met with the client in the client’s backyard or garage, to witness and/or notarize the execution of their Wills and other estate planning documents.
Accordingly, if you are interested in having your Will and other estate planning documents reviewed and updated, now is the best time to do it. Please contact either Mindy K. Smolevitz or myself to have this work done. Your family is depending on you, during these most trying times that we are living through, to ensure that your Will and other estate planning documents are current and up to date.