Signing Wills and Other Documents During the Coronavirus/COVID 19 Pandemic

Thursday, March 19, 2020

    Many people are worried by the Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic, and are limiting their social contacts, and abiding by guidelines for social distancing.

    But many of the people who are worried by the Coronavirus/COVID 19 pandemic are also suddenly interested in making Wills or in creating Trusts.

    These documents need to be signed and witnessed, and related documents need to be notarized.

    People in many senior living communities are unable to receive visitors of any kind, including lawyers.  

    Even people who are able to go out to a lawyer’s office may want to limit their contacts with the lawyer, the notary, and the witnesses.

    In some states, remote notarization is possible.  This is not possible in Oregon.  The person whose signatures are being notarized must be in the presence of the notary.  Video conferencing is generally thought not to comply with the requirements for notarization in Oregon.

    Often, however, the signing of documents, the witnessing of documents, and the notarization of documents can still be accomplished with a little forethought.

    If a person is able to come to the lawyer’s office, often the lawyer and the notary and the witnesses can meet the person in the parking lot, and can watch through the windshield of the person’s car as the person signs documents.  There still must be a physical exchange of documents, but face to face contact can be limited.

    For people who are not able to leave a senior living community, often something similar can be arranged through a window, or, if the window does not open (or if there is a screen), a staff member who is permitted to go in and out of the building can run the papers from the front door to the resident’s room, the resident and the lawyer can see each other through the window, and they can communicate using telephones, as the witnesses and the notary watch the resident sign documents by looking through the resident’s window.

    Many things are possible, with a little bit of forethought and ingenuity.

    The above should not be considered legal advice, and the above procedures may or may not be appropriate and/or may or may not be legally sufficient in different circumstances, particularly as things change during this fast moving crisis.  You should work with a lawyer to confirm the legality and sufficiency of any document, and of the execution or signing and notarization of any document, with a view to your particular circumstances and the actual law that may apply in your particular situation, as well as with a view to the then current health restrictions and any Orders there may be restricting movement or contact with others at the time of signing.