On April 8, Gov. Doug Ducey signed an executive order that makes it legal for estate planning documents to be notarized remotely using audiovisual technology and electronic signatures. Previously, Arizona, one of many states that have moved quickly to permit remote notaries, was set to allow the change beginning July 1, but his order moved that up.
A notary helps prevent fraud by “notarizing,” or verifying the signatures of the will-maker and the two required witnesses. While Arizona doesn’t require that wills be notarized, doing so speeds up and cuts the cost of the legal process that starts when the will-maker dies.
Many attorneys think COVID-19 could be the turning point in states permanently allowing remote notarizing of such documents.
The surge in estate planning — deciding what happens to you and your assets if you’re incapacitated or die — forced law firms to get creative with signing ceremonies before Ducey allowed remote notaries. Gathering the will-maker, two witnesses, and a notary in a room isn’t exactly practicing social distancing. And those who are at higher risk of contracting the virus may be the ones who most need a will and other documents.
Online estate planning is one way Americans are cutting costs and time. Hiring a lawyer to prepare your estate documents can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 and takes three to four weeks.
Wills, and what else?
Estate planning covers what happens if you become incapacitated and what happens if you die. A will or trust determines what happens to your assets if you die, while powers of attorney (POA) documents protect you and your assets if you’re incapacitated.
A health care POA appoints someone to make medical decisions for you, while a financial POA appoints someone to make decisions about your assets.
A living will — a written statement of what you want to happen to you if you become incapacitated — is another option for health care decisions.