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Executive Order 202.14, Estate Planning, Video Conferencing and Covid-19 in New York State

On April 7, Governor Cuomo extended several earlier Executive Orders and added the following audio-visual provisions that allow the execution of estate planning documents by audio-visual means. The provision below is in effect until May 7, 2020. This is an important development for those who wish to execute estate planning documents in the physical presence of an attorney or witnesses and helps people who wish to create other related estate planning documents, using a process that did not exist until very recently.

The provisions below lay out the requirements for the video signing of a will. They are not onerous and can be completed using some basic video conferencing technology along with app that create pdfs from pictures. This technology along with the use of the overnight mail service mean that it is possibly create a plan that both protects your family and provides you the peace of mind you deserve in this uncertain time. I have added a sentence after each requirement summarizing the important item to consider in each directive.

  1. The person requesting that their signature be witnessed, if not personally known to the witness(es), must present valid photo ID to the witness(es) during the video conference, not merely transmit it prior to or after;

The person signing their will must show the witnesses a copy of a valid photo identification during the process.

  1. The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the witness(es), and the supervising attorney, if applicable (e.g. no pre-recorded videos of the person signing);

The video conference has to be “live.” All parties should be present.

  1. The witnesses must receive a legible copy of the signature page(s), which may be transmitted via fax or electronic means, on the same date that the pages are signed by the person;

Easy to use apps make this requirement quite easy to do.

  1. The witness(es) may sign the transmitted copy of the signature page(s) and transmit the same back to the person; and

Once the testator (signor of the will) signs and sends his/her signature page to the witnesses via electronic means, the witnesses can sign and then send that page back to the testator.

  1. The witness(es) may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of execution provided the witness(es) receive such original signature pages together with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty days after the date of execution.

If the witnesses receive the original signature page and the electronically witnessed pages within thirty days of the “electronic ceremony,” they may sign the witness page as of the date of the original execution.

These changes recognize the fact that we live in a digital age. Your writer welcomes the opportunity to continue assisting his clients during this unprecedented time and wishes you the very best. Please contact me at 212-929-7548 or rmaher@robertmaherlaw.com with any questions about the above.