The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Created The Need For Remote Witnessing of Wills in New York

New York Attorney

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many changes to people’s normal way of life. It has also created the need for certain alterations in rules, laws and regulations throughout the country, which impacts the way some law firms in NYC operate. One of those changes has to do with the execution of Wills and other documents like Powers of Attorney, Trusts, Deeds and Health Care Proxies. 

The execution of Wills in New York is governed by section 3-2.1 of the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law. One of the requirements is for there to be two witnesses and the testator must sign in the presence of both witnesses. Then both witnesses must sign in the presence of the testator to complete the execution. However, on April 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.14 that allows people to sign their Will via video conferencing with their two witnesses rather than requiring it to be completed in person. This response to the COVID-19 pandemic is designed to promote social distancing efforts and reduce the health risk to the people involved. The Executive Order will be in effect until May 7, 2020, so there are important things you need to know if you require the execution of these specific documents between now and then.

Updated Requirements For The Execution Of Wills

It’s always recommended to check with your Wills attorney before performing any action on the execution of your Will. Under the new Executive Order, NYC law firms can accept an executed Will signed with the use of video and audio technology if they meet the following requirements:

  1. Unless the witness and the person requesting their signature personally know each other, then the person requesting their signature be witnessed must present a valid photo ID during the video conference. It is not acceptable to show it briefly before or after the signing.
  2. Pre-recorded video conferences are not acceptable. It must be live and allow for direct interaction among all parties, including the New York attorney.
  3. Witnesses must receive a clear and legible electronic copy of the signed pages (via email or facsimile) on the same date the documents are signed.
  4. Once the witness receives the transmission, they can sign the same copy and transmit it back to the person via email or facsimile.
  5. The witnesses can repeat the witnessing of the original signature page as of the execution date, provided the witnesses receive the originally signed pages with the electronic copies within thirty days of the execution date.

It’s worth also noting that notarization is not required for a Will to be valid in New York. It is, however, recommended to have documents notarized to make the Will self-proving. This step can be completed at any time, though, and even after the death of the testator. The two witnesses are most important to have in place, so prioritize finding them in the event of a Will that needs to be signed quickly.

Do Other Documents Apply To The Updated Requirements?

Wills are not the only documents subject to different rule changes as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Deeds, Trusts, Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney can also be executed via video and audio conferencing. All law firms in NYC must abide by these altered regulations, so work with your attorney in New York to get the proper equipment set up if you need to have any of these documents executed. If you have any doubt about whether documents need to be notarized, signed or witnessed in person, call a New York attorney to verify before putting your health and the health of others at risk. We are living in times where things can change rapidly, so it’s always recommended to verify before taking action when your health could be put at risk.

Gordon & Gordon Is Here To Serve You

Gordon & Gordon is dedicated to helping clients to the extent possible during these trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are available to serve you via means of technology just as much as we would in person, and are more than willing to discuss matters over the phone to reduce health risks. All you need is a computer and the relevant video and audio technology and we can walk you through the steps on how to use it. And if you don’t have these products readily available to you, reach out to us and we will find a way to assist you. 

While we are all striving to find normalcy during these unique times, it’s important to keep your estate plan up-to-date. Whether you need a probate attorney or a Wills attorney to provide advice, contact us and we would be happy to help. Just like in the courtroom, we are in this fight together with our clients against the COVID-19 pandemic and we are confident we will come out on top.