Signing estate plans and other legal documents in Michigan amid COVID-19 pandemic
On Wednesday, April 8, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-41, which permits Michiganders to use remote witnesses and notaries to sign important documents subject to Michigan’s jurisdiction. Examples include powers of attorneys, deeds, patient-advocate designations, and wills. The recent uncertainty and economic instability caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have driven many to rethink their long-term financial plans, and this Order is welcome news to those looking to update their estate plans.
The temporary process outlined in the Order authorizes witnesses and notaries to use remote audio- and visually confirmed methods to sign documents. These measures are expected to help Michiganders comply with document execution requirements and avoid person-to-person contact while sheltered in place. Set to expire on May 6, the Order lists requirements for video-confirmed signing sessions, like those recorded through Zoom video conferencing, to ensure protections that confirm a document signor’s intent and identity.
Some of these requirements include recording the video and audio of the document signing, as well as preserving a copy of the recording for three years. While signers don’t have to meet in person, they still must physically be in Michigan at the time of the virtual signing. In addition, document preparers will take extra precautions to clearly enumerate documents and include new acknowledgments for notaries to certify compliance with the Order.
Other states have previously or are moving to implement similar measures to help their citizens safely execute documents. Before completing a virtual document signing, consult with a licensed attorney on how best to comply with your state’s particular requirements.