Remote Will Execution
Trainor Law PLLC
Under normal circumstances and according to New York State statutory requirements, an individual signing their will, known as the Testator, must execute the will in the physical presence of an attorney and two witnesses – ie. all parties must be in the same room at the same time. Witness signatures must also be notarized, usually by the attorney who facilitates the execution ceremony. However, when a global pandemic strikes, firms and their clients must adapt to execute this vital document without physically convening, yet with the formalities required by law.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.7 on March 19, 2020. This order authorizes remote notarization of documents (including wills) through audio & video technology. A follow-up executive order (202.14) permits witnessing through audio & video conferencing with the satisfaction of a few conditions. This means that the witnesses and the notary may perform the execution ceremony of a will via remote video conferencing.
Though there still must be an attorney and two witnesses present for the execution, they may observe via video conferencing services such as FaceTime, Skype, Zoom or other video conferencing applications. Once the Testator declares the their signature(s) on the will and shows the same to each witness, the witnesses are then able to sign the witnessing affidavits accordingly. The notary may then witness the signatures of each respective witness and notarize accordingly. The notary may notarize the original document, using the date of remote notarization, within thirty (30) days of remote video conference. Our firm’s practice is to collect all of signed pages, compile the final documents to include each necessary signature, and return the fully executed documents to the Testator. Although not explicitly required in the Governor’s executive orders, we have also amended the witness affidavits to convey that the document was executed remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and in accordance with the executive orders allowing the remote execution.
Remote will execution via video conferencing enables continuity for clients to instate new will packages and revise existing documents. The ingenuity in revising existing procedures to meet necessary standards in new ways is just one way in which we are overcoming and adapting to new restrictions imposed by our current global climate. Our firm is well-versed in the preparation of will packages to meet your unique needs as well as the procedure necessary for remote execution. We make sure that our clients receive complete and legally sound documents that reflect their needs and wishes.
If you or someone you know is interested in obtaining a will package, please contact our office at (518)-899-9200 or through our website at this link.
This article is intended to be educational and is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after an attorney-client relationship is established.