First and foremost, this is a rapidly changing and unprecedented situation. Check with an attorney before relying on this being up to date. As of now, there are remote procedures available for the witnessing of wills (see Governor’s Emergency Order 20-40-10-01) and notarization (Governor’s Emergency Order No. 20-03-30-04).
- Notaries must retain an electronic recordation of the means by which they verified signatures and identities of the person signing documents. For notarization specifically, use of Zoom is prohibited due to security problems.
- Powers of Attorneys, Health Care Directives, and Wills can be remotely witnessed in the Electronic Presence of the Signer.
- All the witnesses must be in the physical or electronic presence of the supervising attorney, and residents of the State of Maryland. The Supervising Attorney may not act as a witness.
- It is up to the Supervising Attorney to create a certified copy of the document that can be treated as the original.
- These Orders remains effective until the state of emergency has been terminated and the proclamation of the catastrophic health emergency has been rescinded, or until rescinded, superseded, amended, or revised by additional orders.
It is a great step to have these procedures in place, but as expected they are not perfect. Many of the parties needing documents in today’s uncertain times may lack the ability or technology to participate in video conference outlined in the orders. The rapid development of these orders, and the limited timeframe in which they are allowed likely exposes them to litigation risk traditionally witnessed documents lack. Still, having some kind of remote alternative is still progress.
For now, Hoffman, Comfort, Offutt, Scott & Halstad still offers curbside assistance. We will pursue electronic witnessing when appropriate, but we do not believe it is an alternative for every single one of our clients.
If you need help with Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives, or estate planning matters, get in touch today by calling (410) 848-4444. To see what others have said about us, please read our reviews online.