Besides needing notarizations, however, wills executed in New York require two witnesses to be in the room when the document is signed. So does a health care proxy, which appoints an agent to make medical decisions if someone is incapacitated.
On Wednesday, Ron L. Meyers, an estate planning lawyer in Manhattan, adjusted his practice to the times. From home, he used FaceTime to watch two clients and their witnesses more than 100 miles away sign new financial powers of attorney and health care proxies. He used his laptop to record a video of the proceedings. His clients used their phone.
The clients, Phyllis Diamond, 74, a psychotherapist, and her husband, Peter Dignazio, 79, a retired engineer, bundled in coats and scarves, sat on the enclosed porch of their friends’ house in Columbia County, outside New York City, where the couple live. The couple have a second home nearby.
Ms. Diamond and Mr. Dignazio, wearing vinyl gloves, signed the papers at a large table, while their two friends, both witnesses, stood six feet away. When the couple finished signing, they moved away and their friends moved in, Ms. Diamond said.
“We thanked them profusely,” Ms. Diamond said of her friends. “We said we would have a virtual cocktail party.”
Ms. Diamond said she scanned the documents, which she sent electronically to Mr. Meyers, who notarized them. She is also sending him the paper copy, which he will authenticate.
In New Jersey, where notaries need to be present, Wynne Whitman, an estate planning lawyer with Schenck Price in Florham Park, also found a creative way to deal with social distancing. A friend told her that two emergency room nurses, who were single mothers and handling coronavirus cases, had posted a Facebook notice: They had downloaded estate planning documents from an online service and could not find a notary to authenticate their signatures.