Gov. Cuomo has issued another Executive Order relaxing the execution standards for various legal instruments as part of New York State on PAUSE for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order No. 202.14 provides for virtual witnessing and execution of Health Care Proxies, as well as other legal instruments such as Last Wills and Testaments, Disposition of Remains forms, Deeds of real property and Powers of Attorney, as long as the following occurs:

  • The person requesting that his/her signature be witnessed, if not personally known to the witness(es), must present valid photo identification to the witness(es) during the video conference.
  • The audio-video conference must allow for direct interaction between the person and the witness or witnesses, as well as the supervising attorney, if applicable.  A pre-recorded video of the person signing is not permitted.
  • The witness(es) must receive a legible copy of the signature page, which may be transmitted via fax or electronic means, on the same date that the pages are signed by the person.
  • The witness(es) may sign the transmitted copy of the signature page and transmit the same back to the person.
  • In addition, the witness(es) may repeat the witnessing of the original signature page(s) as of the date of execution provided the witness(es) receive such original signature page together with the electronically witnessed copies within 30 days after the date of execution.

Given social distancing, quarantines and the restrictions on non-essential work, the Governor’s removal of some of the more stringent statutory witness requirements will now allow for the execution of various legal instruments, including health care proxies.

I have been informed – from downstate colleagues – that many hospital patients wanted to complete health care proxies, but there were no available witnesses given social distancing and hospital visitor and other restrictions.  Allowing for remote witnessing in hospitals and in other settings will reduce some of the legal barriers to completing a health care proxy during the pandemic.