The easy answer is, not until July 2020. The ability to execute an electronic will takes effect on July 1, 2020.
To confuse the issue however, online notarization of documents other than a will became effective on January 1, 2020. The process is very new, expensive, difficult, and, for life plan documents, limited. Choosing to use “remote online notarization” (RON as the process is known) requires that you understand how RON works with typical life plan documents.
If you are considering RON, you should understand how it will work with typical life plan documents. CLICK HERE to read how RON works.
Following is a list of typical life planning documents with a summary of using RON for each of those documents. Included is a link to more detailed information about using RON for each type of document.
RON WITH ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES:
A living will does not require a notary. It does require two witnesses.
A health care surrogate designation, like a living will, does not require a notary. Also like a living will, the HCS designation requires two witnesses.
If you are willing to have two witnesses present with you when you sign a living will and/or health care surrogate designation, you do not need RON. You can download a free living will and health care surrogate form HERE – fill it out and sign in the presence of two witnesses.
RON WITH A POWER OF ATTORNEY:
A power of attorney (for financial and contract matters) requires two witnesses and a notary. It can be witnessed and notarized online now. However, a POA signed and witnessed online is not the same as a POA signed and witnessed in person.
You cannot activate the special powers of a POA, known as “super powers,” unless two witnesses are physically present with you when you sign the POA. I believe the super powers are very important powers. Failing to activate them may prevent your agent from taking critically important action on your behalf. Therefore, it will almost always be necessary to have witnesses present with you when you sign a POA.
If you are willing to have two witnesses present with you, why not ensure that one of those witnesses is a Notary? This allows you to activate the super powers and eliminates RON entirely.
In addition to the need for having witnesses physically present, using RON for powers of attorney can present some potential issues when your agent tries to use it.
RON WITH WILLS – ELECTRONIC WILLS:
When the process takes effect on July 1, 2020, executing a will online will be more involved than RON for living wills, health care surrogate designations, and powers of attorney. In addition to the two step authentication required for the signor (the “testator” of a will) and witnesses, an electronic will must be stored online with a “qualified custodian.” The “original” will cannot be delivered to the client. The client will only receive a copy.
This process may work well for individuals who seek a simple, straight-forward will and are well versed and comfortable clicking through computer processes.
The issue remains, however, about how to create your will in the first place. If you are familiar with the law of wills, an online will service may work for you. It is likely that those services will include RON when it becomes effective.
If you seek a simple, straight-forward will but are not familiar with the law of wills, consider the Simple Life Plan offered by Blackburn Law Firm, PLLC at www.MySimpleLifePlan.com. This is a hybrid system – you answer 6 questions to verify that your will is simple, fill out a questionnaire, pay the fee (1/2 the regular fee for meeting personally with the lawyer), and schedule a time to sign your documents in our office. The lawyers of Blackburn Law Firm consult with you by telephone and prepare your documents. For those who want it, we anticipate incorporating RON into this process. Check MySimpleLifePlan.com to see if RON is available.
RON WITH TRUSTS:
Blackburn Law Firm, PLLC does not recommend using RON for trusts.
OTHER ISSUES WITH RON:
The RON process is very new and has not even taken effect for wills. There are potential problems that can arise until the process has been used and tested for a number of years. These potential problems include:
Revising your life plan documents:
Understanding your life plan documents:
The risk that your RON documents will be challenged:
The cost of using RON:
THE BOTTOM LINE – DOES LIFEPLANLAW.COM USE OR RECOMMEND RON?
At this time, Blackburn Law Firm, PLLC – LifePlanLaw.com does not use RON. We anticipate making the Simple Life Plan (find out MORE HERE) compatible with RON when the electronic wills provisions become effective on July 1, 2020.
WHAT ABOUT COVID 19?
Covid 19 has seemingly arrived like a tornado and dumped all of us into a new world. We recognize the need for social distancing and keeping our clients, lawyers, and staff safe and healthy.
READ MORE HERE about the steps we are taking to meet our clients’ needs while keeping everyone safe.