I've been thinking about wills. I've revised my own. Do you have one? You should. No matter what degree of wealth you have, it is worth preserving on your own terms - not the government's terms. A will is one way to do that, either by itself or together with other estate planning tools such as trusts.
Wills must be witnessed in a specific way in order to be valid. Before the pandemic, we would gather a client, three witnesses and a notary together in our conference room for this purpose. That's impossible now, and may be difficult to pull off for some time even after we are allowed to re-open our office. Social distancing is here to stay for some time to come.
People still need wills, however. Fortunately, there is a solution. A temporary amendment to state law allows documents to be notarized remotely. You can sign a will or other document in one location while the notary is in another room, another city, or anywhere else on the planet. We can notarize documents - temporarily - using video conference technology. You don't need anything more than a smartphone at each end - and almost everyone has one of those.
What about the witnesses? Fortunately, the law concerning the witnessing of wills needed no temporary amendment. The answer is built right into section 3-2.1 of the Estates, Powers and Trusts law of New York State.The key is that the witnesses don't actually have to see you sign the will. They can, if everyone is in on a video conference. But even absent a video conference, you can send each witness a copy of your will - signed by you - and then get each witness on the phone and declare to them that the document they are holding is your will, signed by you, intended by you to be your last will and testament. Each witness can then sign their witness affidavit and send it back to us - your attorney - and now you have a valid will that meets the formal requirements of the law.
So stay healthy, stay six feet or more away from everyone in public - but think about your will - unless you're OK with the government telling you who gets your stuff in the end.