The Governor has now issued an Executive Order (202.14) allowing for remote witnessing of estate planning papers.
The Order applies only for the purposes of the following as related to the practice of elder law & trust/estates:
- Witnessing the signing of a Will by a testator
- Attesting to the testator’s signature as affixed or acknowledged in the witnesses’ presence
- Witnessing the signing of a Health Care Proxy
- Witnessing a statement for the disposition of remains
- Witnessing instruments for real property transactions/transfers
- Witnessing the signing of a Statutory Gifts Rider to a Power of Attorney
- Witnessing the signing of an instrument in connection with an inter-vivos trust i.e., revocable living trust
What does this mean for you? This, combined with the ability for a notary to act remotely, means that your estate planning papers can be validly executed without the physical presence of witnesses and a notary!
Note that the Executive Order is effective until May 7, 2020.
The Order is a necessary move in the face of COVID-19 however, it does also mean that those involved in the signing will need to have the necessary equipment i.e., smart phones, laptops, suitable microphones, etc. Not everyone has this kind of equipment at their disposal.
So… unless you’re a tech savvy individual, there might still be a need to meet with your attorney in car parking lots, driveways, parks.. or whatever else is necessary to have your papers signed while, of course, fully respecting the current climate of distancing and to avoid gatherings!