April 10, 2020
By: Ryan T. Emery
“Update: Although offices can now be open and restrictions regarding in-person gatherings are starting to ease, the Governor has issued another executive order that extends the ability to do remote witnessing until August 5, 2020.”
COVID-19 has brought estate planning to the forefront of the minds of many individuals, particularly at-risk populations such as senior citizens. While a prior executive order permitted remote notarization, the major problem was that with the at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, executing a will in the physical presence of two disinterested witnesses as required by New York law was difficult-to-impossible. Some people not willing to wait out the pandemic were doing and continue to do parking lot and driveway will executions.
On April 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.14 (“EO”) as part of New York’s continuing efforts to combat COVID-19. This new EO also addresses the problem of physical witnesses for legal matters such as will execution ceremonies.
The new EO now explicitly permits will witnessing using video conferencing (for example, Skype, Google Hangout or Zoom) as long as certain conditions are met. The person executing the will must be virtually live with the witnesses and have the means to show their ID to the witnesses. The witnesses must receive and sign a copy of the signature pages via fax or electronically on the same day that the person executed the will. The witnesses can repeat or “ratify” the witnessing on the original signature page if received within 30 days of the execution date.
If you have any questions or want to schedule a “virtual” will execution, please contact me or consult with your attorney at Mackenzie Hughes.