One of the first legal issues that revealed itself when Governors began locking down states was, how are people supposed to get wills and powers of attorney? While it is easy enough for an attorney to talk to a client on the phone or via video for purposes of creating the documents, it is another thing to meet the requirements for notarization and witnesses.
Attorneys are Finding a Way
What I can tell is that attorneys are finding a way. If you need a will or a power of attorney, reach out to a lawyer and they will find a way to get you what you need. We are well aware of the importance of having your affairs in order during a pandemic.
Modification of the Traditional Process
Some attorneys arrange to meet people outside in cars. They bring a notary and if necessary witnesses. Everyone wears gloves and masks and brings their own pens. The client and witnesses stay in their cars, but close enough to see each other. The notary checks ID and then backs up to stamp the document, staying as far away as possible. The attorney observes, either getting out of their car or just getting close enough to see.
Another process is for the attorney to travel to the client’s home, but stay outside. The attorney watches through a window as the client signs. An e-notary takes care of any notary requirements. This only works, of course if no witness is required or if there are acceptable witnesses in the home. Beneficiaries cannot be witnesses to a will.
It is my view and the view of other lawyers that these are essential services that fall within the law, allowing the attorney and the people to travel for these limited purposes.
Laws are Changing to Make it Easier to Get Wills and POAs
Around the country, bar associations, including the Pennsylvania Bar Association, jumped to action and reached out to state legislatures and governors to request changes to the law. Most states are responding quickly. For example, Pennsylvania has changed its notarization law on an emergency basis. Currently, there is a limited, temporary suspension of the statute requiring the physical presence of a notary for notarial acts relating to a signature or statement. In some cases, we already had the ability to use e-notaries, but this change makes the process available in cases where this was not previously available, and makes it easier in general. For more information, see this announcement. Other laws are changing in other areas as well.
If You Need Legal Help – Lawyers are Available
While law firms were deemed unessential in Pennsylvania, lawyers are still working. In fact, the Governor’s rule was modified to recognize that lawyers do have essential tasks that require them to be able to leave their homes and go to their offices or court, when appropriate. In addition, many lawyers are set up to work from home. If they were not already, they are doing so now.
If you need help, look for a lawyer. Look online and see if the lawyer has a note on their website addressing their status on their website. Call the local or state bar association and ask for a referral. Ask your friends for recommendations. If you are in Pennsylvania, send me a note and I will try to refer you to several folks.
Lawyers are Here to Help You Right Now
Lawyers are working. They will not abandon you during this time. It may be there are certain things lawyers cannot accomplish right now, since the courts are only allowing limited things. However, most of what lawyers do is actually outside of course. And I can assure you, if you need a will or a power of attorney during this time, you will be able to find a qualified lawyer who can help you.