One of the first obstacles our office faced while making plans to quarantine was the document signing process. After all, an in-person signature with witnesses and notaries are an essential element of most of our legally binding documents. While we can discuss, draft, and share your estate planning documents remotely, our delivery process typically requires at least 5 people in the room to finalize signatures.
The state of Colorado is working to alleviate this issue, however. In the last week of March, the Colorado SOS office stated that notaries could witness signatures via real-time audiovisual communication. Such a ruling is unprecedented, and it will be interesting in the coming weeks and months to witness the changes it will effect on notarized witnessing in Colorado. In the short term, however, it provides great relief to both our clients and our staff by allowing us to practice responsible social distancing when signing estate planning documents.
Colorado isn’t the only state to make similar temporary changes to the practice of law. Florida has a similar exception allowing for remote notarization,although their rules and limits are even stricter than those in Colorado. Alaska is temporarily loosening its restriction against family members acting as paid long term caregivers, which in turn is sure to have an impact on guardianship and conservatorship concerns. One by one, each state is slowly turning previously ingrained laws and norms on their heads.
In the short term, these changes provide relief to the attorneys and caregivers they affect. It is inevitable, however, that changing these laws will have long term consequences as well. Notaries are already subject to intense scrutiny and restrictions, and the addition of remote notarization can only complicate the ability to enforce those restrictions. It also might make it easier for future interested parties to question the documents during this time. Only time will tell how all of these rapid changes to our society will shape its future, but in the meantime, we hope that it helps you and your family to stay safe and healthy.