The COVID-19 pandemic has made many of us focus on the need to have our estate documents in order, especially powers of attorney and wills. But, what do we do about the signing requirements for witnesses and notaries when we live in a time of social distancing and statewide stay at home orders?
Under normal circumstances, Michigan law has strict requirements for certain legal documents. Wills must be witnessed by two people. A deed and power of attorney must be notarized by a licensed notary. Michigan law currently requires both the witness and notary signatures of documents to be done in person at the time of signing. These in-person requirements present significant challenges given the current need for social distancing and the fact that many professional offices are still closed or operating remotely.
Fortunately, the State of Michigan has temporarily eased these restrictions. On April 8, 2020, Governor Gretchen Witmer issued Executive Order 2020-41, which suspends some of the requirements for signing a will through June 30, 2020. Essentially, the Executive Order provides a path for remote witnessing and notarization of documents as long as the following criteria are met:
Governor Witmer's current Executive Order is set to expire on June 30, 2020. However, since the Governor has extended the emergency declaration in Michigan through July 16, 2020, it is likely that she may also extend the suspension of strict signing requirements through that date as well.
The team at Suzanne R. Fanning PLLC are ready to accommodate signings of trust and estate documents, or other legal documents with your safety in mind. We can witness and notarize the documents remotely or we can schedule a signing with distancing. We also welcome meetings by zoom or other electronic means.