Recently, we have all had to lean on technology to keep our day to day professional (and personal) lives moving forward. Having the ability to execute estate planning documents remotely via audio-video technology has allowed families to complete estate planning projects while appropriately taking into account the current public health emergency – protecting both clients and lawyers.
New York State Executive Order 202.48, issued July 6, 2020, which extended New York's remote document execution procedures, is set to expire on August 5, 2020. Governor Cuomo's initial Executive Orders 202.7 (audio-video notarization) and 202.14 (audio-video witnessing of estate planning documents) have already been extended several times during the course of the pandemic, and the hope and expectation is that these procedures will be extended once again. If the timing of prior extensions is any indication, there may not be an answer until right before the expiration of the current deadline.
We think it would be beneficial for the current procedures regarding audio-video witnessing and notarization to remain in effect permanently. Doing so would allow for documents to be executed as efficiently as possible – whether that means a traditional in-person execution conference, or a remote document signing via technological means. Of course, appropriate safeguards would have to be maintained to ensure that execution formalities are observed. But as technology makes progress, so too should this area of the legal practice.
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