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NY Estate Planning: Electronic Execution of Last Will and Testament

Typically, a will must be signed in front of two (2) witnesses and other estate planning documents require a notary.  Now, due to social distancing guidelines, Executive Order No. 202.14 issued by Governor Cuomo states, in pertinent part, that witnessing can be performed via audio-video technology as long as certain conditions are met.  Similarly, under Executive Order No. 2020.7, so can notarization, under other conditions.

Currently, you can sign your will “in the presence” of your witnesses via a synchronous audio-visual program, such as Zoom.  You must then fax or e-mail a signed legible copy to be signed by the witnesses on the same date the page was signed by you.  The witnesses must then sign the transmitted copy of the signature page and transmit it back to you.  If you do not have access to a fax or e-mail, you can send the original to your witnesses and they can witness it, using the same date that you signed, as long as it is within 30 days.  Executive Order 202.14 is in effect until May 7, 2020.

For other estate planning documents that require notarization, Executive Order No. 202.7 controls.  To comply with this Executive Order, similar to the requirements for witnessing documents, the notarization must be performed via audio-video technology.  The person seeking the notary services must state in “real time” that he or she is physically present in the State of New York.  The Executive Order is silent as to whether the notary must be physically present in New York.  After you sign the estate planning documents, they must be faxed or e-mailed to the notary the same day.  The notary must then sign the transmitted copy of the signature page and transmit it back to you.  If you do not have access to a fax or e-mail, you can send the original to your witnesses and they can witness it, using the same date that you signed, as long as it is within 30 days.  It is important to note that electronic signatures may be used for the signor, but not the notary –the notary must sign in ink.

Disclaimer:
"This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before relying on the information in this blog."

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