Governor Cuomo Authorizes Video Conferencing to Witness Legal Documents

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

In an effort to help New Yorkers who are unable to be physically present to witness the execution of legal documents and to protect the health and safety of the public, Governor Andrew Cuomo has just authorized the use of audio-video technology for witnessing wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and other estate planning documents.

There are some requirements, but they are reasonable in nature and won’t be difficult to enact.

  • The person requesting that their signature be witnessed must be able to produce a valid photo ID to the witnesses during the course of the video conference, if they are not known to the witnesses;
  • The video conference must allow direct interaction between the person and the witness(es) and the supervising attorney. In other words, this can’t be done via a recorded session.
  • The witness must receive a legible copy of the signature page or pages, which may be sent by email or fax, on the same date that the pages are signed.
  • The witness can sign the emailed or faxed copy of the signature page and send it back to the person; and
  • The witness may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of the execution, as long as the witness(es) receive the original signature pages, along with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty (30) days after the date of the execution.

This is a common sense approach to a problem that has been a serious impediment to wills, powers of attorney, health care proxies and trusts being finalized during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.