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Remote Will Executions

Updated: Apr 20, 2020

By: Juliya Ismailov

During the COVID epidemic and related emergency actions taken by state and federal governments, we have been asked if estate planning documents may be signed in the remote presence of notaries and/or witnesses. 

While New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.7 issued on March 19, 2020 first allowed remote notarization of documents, it did not address witnessing a document. 

In New York, a Power of Attorney must be notarized and Trusts may be signed before two witnesses or, alternatively, a notary.  On the other hand, two witnesses are required to execute a valid Last Will and Testament and a Health Care Proxy (with no notarization alternative), so Executive Order 202.7 did not address remote execution of these important documents.

Now, on April 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued another Executive Order 202.14, in effect until May 7, 2020, which extends Executive Order 202.7 until such date.  The new order closes the gap and allows remote witnessing of estate planning documents, including Wills and Health Care Proxies, using audio-video technology.

Less than 3 weeks remain to execute important estate planning documents remotely.  This presents a convenience that may no longer be available come middle of May when physical presence for execution of documents is again required but may not yet (or ever) be desired by clients—for both health and time-saving reasons.

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