Estate Law Blog
Covid-19 Estate Planning -- Remote Online Notarization Urgently Need in NJ
UPDATE: On 4/15, Governor Murphy signed a new law allowing for remote notary acts. I'm grateful that the state has passed this urgently needed law. It does not completely meet the needs of estate planning lawyers, some serious obstacles remain, but it does open several avenues for basic planning during the pandemic. The text of the law is here: https://legiscan.com/NJ/text/S2336/2020
As I write this, on April 6, New Jersey has more Covid-19 cases than any state other than New York. The need for New Jersey residents to address their estate planning -- to make a Will, a health care directive, a financial power of attorney - is acute and urgent.
Estate lawyers in New Jersey are signifantly hamstrung by the requirement that most estate planning documents must be signed in the presence of a notary. Law firms are not "essential businesses" under the current rules and we cannot be physically open to the public. The legal requirements for making the important estate planning documents and the current lock-down of law firms creates a nearly impossible situation.
It doesn't have to be this hard. In response to Covid-19, Governor Cuomo in New York entered an executive order permitting documents to be notarized using video technology through April 18, 2020, and I expect it will be extended. At least 7 other states have temporarily authorized remote online notarization, and many other states have permanent remote online notarization laws.
I urge Govenor Murphy to enter an executive order allowing remote online notarization during this pandemic.
In the interim, New Jersey residents should contact their estate lawyer. Every firm is handling this differently, and every lawyer I know is eager for the state to make this essential process a whole lot easier.