The Novel Coronavirus is having a huge impact on the lives of all Massachusetts residents, and the elderly and disabled populations of the Commonwealth are especially vulnerable to delay in execution of their estate planning documents causing serious harm to their health and finances.
Under current Massachusetts law, all acknowledgments and signatures must be obtained in the physical presence of a notary public. However, protective measures being put in place to address COVID-19 will increasingly mean that individuals are unable to access a notary who is physically present. As a result, these vulnerable populations may be deprived of the ability to obtain services and complete essential legal documents necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones, especially as policies in place at skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities and other residential facilities are also now preventing notaries public from meeting in person with residents of these facilities.
A number of Trust and Estates attorneys in Massachusetts are working on ways to resolve these issues, including by potentially asking the Governor of the Commonwealth to sign an executive order, effective immediately, to permit notaries public who are licensed attorneys to obtain virtual acknowledgement and signatures from individuals for legal documents for a limited period of time due COVID 19. Seventeen other states already permit virtual notarization and five more have enacted virtual notarization laws that will soon take effect.
To share your thoughts on this issue, this potential solution, or any other possible approach, contact Michael Avitzur at email@example.com by March 19, 2020.
Editors’ note: The BBA will continue to watch this space and offer updates to its members. If you have information about relevant trust and estates matters or initiatives related to COVID-19, please send those to Alexa Daniel, at firstname.lastname@example.org.