We are pleased to report our entire team and their immediate families remain well.
As of now, we do anticipate returning to our offices on a limited basis in the coming weeks with a variety of precautions in place. For clients for whom we are currently drafting estate plan documents (and are not critically ill or at high risk of exposure to COVID-19), it is our strong preference to schedule meetings in our offices to review and sign their documents in person. Unless you have already scheduled an appointment, or have already been in touch with us to schedule one, the earliest availability for an in person signing will be August.
For clients who are critically ill or at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, we have been working to expedite delivering estate plan documents based on need and priority. With the recent passage of law in Massachusetts allowing for virtual notarization, we have updated our policy and procedures for remotely executing estate plan documents:
• Virtual Notarization Law
On April 27, 2020, Governor Baker signed An Act Providing For Virtual Notarization To Address Challenges Related To COVID-19 (the “Act”), a law which temporarily allows for a Notary Public in Massachusetts to notarize documents remotely via video conference. Prior to the passage of this law, a Notary Public was required to be in the physical presence of signatories when notarizing documents. Please click here for more information about the Act.
• When will we use virtual notarization?
We will use virtual notarization to remotely execute documents for clients who we have determined to be critically ill, at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, or have other pressing circumstances that require expedited delivery of documents. For all other clients, it is our strong preference to schedule meetings to execute documents in person.
• How does virtual notarization work?
Once we have identified the need for expedited delivery, we will begin to draft the estate plan documents. A meeting by video conference will then be scheduled to review those documents with the client, and a copy of the documents will be provided to the client by mail or email prior to that meeting. Following the virtual review meeting, we will then conduct a separate meeting by video conference to execute the documents in the “virtual” presence of a Notary Public and witnesses, if necessary. The Notary Public will ask any signatories to produce valid identification to verify their identity. Copies of the ID(s) provided will be saved to the client’s file, as well as an affidavit by the Notary Public, and an audio & visual recording of the signing by video conference. These records will be kept for 10 years following the date of the signing. We will provide the client with a return envelope to send the executed documents to our offices and provide instructions to scan and send via email if they are able to do so.
• What video conference platform is used for virtual notarization?
Our Firm uses GoToMeeting for video conferences. After scheduling a meeting by video conference, we will provide a link and instructions to join.
• How long will the new law be in effect?
The Act will remain in effect for 3 business days after the COVID-19 state of emergency in Massachusetts has been lifted.
Though we have transitioned meetings to be conducted by video conference or by phone, we do ask for your patience and understanding as we are constantly re-prioritizing our client work in response to changing needs. We look forward to assisting you and hope you are well and staying safe as we all continue to navigate through these uncertain times.
Stay safe and be well.
Scott Squillace and the Team at Squillace & Associates, P.C.