Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202-14, that addresses remote witnessing, answering the call of estate planning attorneys across the State. The order, among other issues, authorizes remote signings of such documents as wills, powers of attorney and health care proxies.  Prior to the signing of this order, these crucial estate planning documents, especially important in times like these, had to be witnessed in person.  Due to the PAUSE Act and social distancing guidelines, witnessing estate planning documents had become somewhat of a challenge.

The order authorizes the use of audio and video technology to witness wills, powers of attorney, and health care proxies if the following conditions are met:

  • The person requesting that his or her signature be witnessed, if not personally known to the witnesses, must present valid photo ID to the witnesses during the video conference, not merely transmit it to the witnesses prior to or after the signing;
  • The video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the witnesses, and the supervising attorney, if applicable.  This means that a prerecorded video of the signing ceremony does not meet the requirements of the order;
  • The witnesses must receive a legible copy of the signature page(s), which may be transmitted via fax or electronic means, on the same date that the pages are signed by the person;
  • The witnesses may sign the transmitted copy of the signature page(s) and transmit the same back to the person; and
  • The witnesses may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of execution provided the witnesses receive such original signature pages together with the electronically witnessed copies within thirty days after the date of execution.

As many law firms remain open for business but working remotely, this will allow for more convenient signing ceremonies.  Individuals with normally busy schedules who often aren’t able to make appointments during normal operating hours of law firms should also consider taking advantage of this Executive Order allowing remote witnessing while it is in force.  The Executive Order is due to expire May 7, 2020, notwithstanding any extension authorized by Governor Cuomo.

If you have questions concerning how Executive Order 202.14 may impact you, let us assist you. Contact Timothy Doolittle, Esq. at (315) 445-1700 or by email at