Legislature Sets Stage for Remote Estate Plan Signing by Passing Remote Notary Law

Author: J. Keith Phifer

This Thursday the 23rd of April, Massachusetts joined a collection of other states and passed a bill that allows for notaries public to perform work remotely. This law allows notarization to be performed via video conferencing technology and outlines how the process that should be executed. Essentially, a Massachusetts licensed attorney, or paralegal under the direct supervision of a Massachusetts licensed attorney, may engage in a video conference with the signer and any necessary witnesses and observe them signing the documents. Platforms such as Zoom, or GoToMeeting, among others, are perfectly appropriate for facilitating these signings. It should be noted that all parties must be physically present in Massachusetts at the time of the signing. After the documents are signed by the signer and any witnesses, the originals then need to be delivered, via delivery service, courier, or other means, to the notary. Once received, a second video conference is held where the signer verifies to the notary that the document received is the same document signed in the first video conference, and then the notary will affix his or her stamp and signature to the documents. The notary should record both sessions of video conferencing and maintain the recording, and any related documents, for ten years.

This law will help facilitate the execution of many legal documents such as wills, trusts, proxies, real estate transactions, and license applications. Until now, Massachusetts has required all notarizations to be done in person, often in the presence of two witnesses. Lawyers and clients have had to choose between holding off implementation of important documents such as the above, or risking their health in order to get them completed. This legislation will provide a safe alternative for legal transactions to continue unimpeded during this public health crisis. This remote option is not intended to be permanent, however. It will be repealed three days after the state of emergency is lifted. In the meantime, if you have documents that should be addressed, including an estate plan, or other important documents, please call us to discuss how we can help you complete the documents without risking your health. We are here to help you with all of your legal needs during these uncertain times.