Effectuating an Estate Plan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, citizens and businesses are being forced to change their daily routines. Estate planning has not escaped unscathed from the social distancing and quarantining aspects that are now status-quo. Until recently, standard practice in executing estate planning documents consisted of in-person meetings with two witnesses and a notary. However, this was proving nearly impossible to manage while attempting to keep all parties involved safe and healthy, but this pandemic has also spurred many concerned citizens to begin thinking about getting these very important documents in place. This has forced the State government to begin thinking outside of the box in order to ensure that people are able to get validly executed documents in place during this time of crisis.


On April 7, 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.14, which amongst numerous other provisions, has temporarily changed the laws related to estate planning witnessing requirements. The Executive Order provides that witnessing ceremonies may now be performed utilizing audio-visual technology. However, the signing must meet the following conditions:


  1. The person executing the documents must present their valid ID to the witnesses during the video conference if they are not known to the witnesses personally;

  2. The video conference must allow for direct interactions between the witnesses and the person executing the documents;

  3. The witnesses must receive a copy of the signature pages, whether by fax or other electronic means, on the same dates that the pages are signed by the person;

  4. The witnesses may sign the transmitted copy of the signature pages and transmit the same back to the person; and

  5. The witnesses may repeat the witnessing of the original signature pages as of the date of execution if the witnesses received the original signature pages together with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty days after the date of execution.


In addition, Governor Cuomo has also issued an Executive Order relating to the notarizing of documents utilizing audio-visual technology. There are many estate planning documents which require a notary and this order helps to ensure they may now be validly executed while attempting to prevent any further spread of COVID-19. Executive Order 202.7 provides, any notarial act that is required under New York State law is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided that the following conditions are met:


  1. The person seeking the Notary’s services, if not personally known to the Notary, must present valid photo ID to the Notary during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after;

  2. The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the Notary (e.g., no pre-recorded videos of the person signing);

  3. The person must affirmatively represent that he or she is physically situated in the State of New York;

  4. The person must transmit by fax or electronic means a legible copy of the signed document directly to the Notary on the same date it was signed;

  5. The Notary may notarize the transmitted copy of the document and transmit the same back to the person; and

  6. The Notary may repeat the notarization of the original signed document as of the date of execution provided the Notary receives such original signed document together with the electronically notarized copy within thirty days after the date of execution.


Pullano & Farrow is prioritizing our efforts to assist nurses, doctors, and other first responders on the front line. We understand that many of these individuals are focused on taking care of their respective communities, and we want to give back to these brave men and women. Pullano & Farrow pledges to complete the personal estate planning documents for those that are fighting this pandemic head-on, within a week from the initial meeting so that they have one less thing to worry about. If you, or someone you know, has an urgent need to get these documents in place, please contact any of the Rochester attorneys at the Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow, at (585) 730-4773.

This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. ©2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC


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