Aging In Michigan - April 2020

Can I Get a Witness?

It’s probably safe to assume that every sort of crisis gives rise to unforeseen challenges. This crisis is no different.

For elder law and estate planning attorneys, one of the biggest unexpected obstacles to helping clients through these times has been getting legal documents witnessed when neither the witnesses nor the signer are particularly interested in being in the presence of one another. And yet, pretty much every estate planning document that lawyers create has some sort of witnessing requirement.

For example:

  • A Patient Advocate Designation (aka medical power of attorney) requires two witnesses, and neither of those witnesses can be a healthcare worker.
  • A financial power of attorney requires two witnesses and notary.
  • A Will requires two witnesses.
  • A Deed requires a notary.

This means, that at a time when these documents may be most important to have, getting them validly signed and witnessed presents obstacles that no one saw coming.  While virtual signatures are allowed in some types of legal transactions, those developments have yet to make their way into the sometimes archaic world of wills and trusts.  The good news is that efforts are under way to obtain emergency modifications to these laws either through executive order by the Governor or through an act of legislature. In There is some hope that relief will be forthcoming. In the meantime, attorneys, like those of us at CT, are doing the best we can to balance client safety against their need to have these critical documents in place.

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