The COVID-19 crisis, and its attendant rules of social distancing, face masks, etc. have presented new challenges to estate planning attorneys in the realm of document executions. How are we advising clients who wish to sign their estate planning documents during this pandemic? The usual participants when we meet with clients to execute wills and other documents include the client(s), the attorney who serves as one witness, a staff member who serves as the second witness, and a notary public. Like many other law firms in New Jersey, we have not been meeting with clients in our offices since mid-March. Many of our attorneys, and most of our staff, are working remotely. Hence we cannot easily assemble the normal cast of characters to participate in the execution of client documents. Further, wills and other estate planning documents may not be signed by electronic signature; such documents must be signed in person with a so-called “wet” signature.
Here are some of the ways we have been helping our clients sign their documents in these challenging times.
1. The signing may be handled by the client at home or elsewhere, with execution instructions provided by the attorney: