Governor Whitmer signed another executive order last night, this one aimed at helping estate planning attorneys and their clients. The Order modifies the rules that require witnesses to be physically present when a client signs their will, power of attorney, or other estate planning documents. Under the order, witnessing that takes place “remotely” (aka via Zoom, Skype, Facetime or any other similar technology) will be just as effective. The same modifications will apply to notarizations.
“COVID-19 generated a lot of alarm in the elder law and estate planning legal community,” explains attorney Amy Tripp “because people who needed to sign their estate planning documents didn’t want to be in the same physical space as the people who were serving as witnesses, and vice versa.”
Although the order was just signed, Chalgian and Tripp lawyers have been using remote witness arrangements since the “stay at home” order was put in place. “Several of our attorneys have conducted signings over Zoom and other platforms in the past several days,” said Attorney Tripp. “Although there was some awkwardness at first, those bumps have been resolved and it seems that everyone is now comfortable with the new process.”
The changes implemented by this executive order are temporary. When the COVID crisis has passed, elder law and estate planning lawyers will undoubtedly look to implement changes to the law to circumvent this problem from arising again in the future.