By Ryan McNeill, Attorney at Law
The current pandemic may have you thinking about estate planning. With social distance requirements put in place, schools operating on modified academic schedules, you may have wondered how you might be able to get your documents notarized. Virtual notarizations, authorized at the beginning of the pandemic, have been extended until the state of emergency in NC has passed.
To adapt and to provide continuous vital legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina General Assembly has passed a law that will no longer require a notary to be physically present in the same location as the signing of documents when notarizing estate planning or other legal documents.
The emergency video notarization provisions were part of Senate Bill 704, which became law on May 4, 2020, and which had other important provisions for signing estate planning documents. Emergency video notarization is authorized while a state of emergency order is in place and requires that there be real-time video and audio electronic interaction between the notary and the person signing the document. It
further requires that the notary either has personal knowledge of the person signing the document or that during the video conference the signer show to the camera a state or federal issued photo identification card like a driver’s license.
Additional changes were made to witnessing certain estate planning documents. The old law required a living will or healthcare power of attorney documents to be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. During the state of emergency both of those documents now only require notarization and the presence of two witnesses is not required. The signing of a will still requires two witnesses, but during the state of emergency, witnessing can also occur through real-time audio and video communication with the person signing the documents rather than requiring in-person witnessing.
This new law makes it easier for notaries and individuals wanting to create or update estate planning documents. However, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- As of today, video notarization will not be authorized after March 1, 2021
- Both notary and the individual must be physically present in North Carolina
- If a wet ink signature or notarization is required for recordation or filing purposes, then the person signing the document will need to send the original document after signing to the notary for the notary to affix his/her stamp or seal
- In-person witnessing and notarization are still authorized, the statute just gives additional options for signing during a state of emergency.
Now is not the time to push back or delay your estate planning. It is more important than ever to set your financial and legal affairs in order.
Ready to start or update your estate planning? Brinkley Walser Stoner attorneys are here to help with your legal needs; schedule an appointment with one of our estate planning attorneys.