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Governor Wolf Approves Temporary Limited Suspension of Rule Requiring Physical Presence of Notaries for Estate Planning Documents

Temporary Limited Suspension of Rule Requiring Physical Presence of Notaries for Estate Planning Documents

On April 2, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf approved a temporary and limited suspension of current law 57 Pa.C.S. § 306, which requires the physical presence of notaries, for estate planning documents that require notarization or for which notarization is considered best practice.

Estate Planning Documents

Estate planning documents that require notarization under current Pennsylvania law are powers of attorney (20 Pa.C.S. §5601), self-executing wills (20 Pa.C.S. §3132.1), and temporary guardianships (23 Pa.C.S. §5621).

Estate planning documents for which notarization is considered best practice in Pennsylvania consist of advanced health care directives/powers of attorney (20 Pa.C.S. §5452), living wills (20 Pa.C.S §5442), and temporary and standby guardianships (23 Pa.C.S. §5611).

Audio-Visual Technology

Per Governor Wolf’s recent temporary suspension of certain of these laws, Pennsylvania notaries may now use audio-visual technology rather than in-person notary procedures for estate planning documents, subject to the following safeguards:

  • Notaries must execute all notarial acts (including acknowledgments) in accordance with all other requirements of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts.
  • Safeguards, such as identity verification, use of tamper-evident technology, and an audio-video recording of the notarial act, as contemplated by the Uniform Law Commission’s amendment to the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts and the recent Remote Online Notarization legislation, must still be observed.
  • A Pennsylvania notary using audio-visual technology in lieu of personal appearance is required to:
    • Become an approved Pennsylvania electronic notary by completing this free application online;
    • Use one of the pre-approved e-notary solutions identified by the Pennsylvania Department of State that provide remote notarization technology (Doc-Verify, Safe-Docs, Pavaso); and
    • Include in the notary certificate that the notarial act was performed by means of communications technology, which can be satisfied by the following statement – “This notarial act involved the use of communication technology.”

If you have any questions about the information contained in this blog or any related questions, please feel free to contact Barbara Hollenbach at bhollenbach@norris-law.com. Should you have questions regarding your need to sign Pennsylvania estate planning documents remotely without a notary public present, please email Judith Harris, Co-Chair of the Norris McLaughlin Trusts, Estates, and Individual Tax Law Practice Group, at jharris@norris-law.com. For other topics related to COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus Thought Leadership Connection.

The information contained in this post may not reflect the most current developments, as the subject matter is extremely fluid and constantly changing. Please continue to monitor this site for ongoing developments. Readers are also cautioned against taking any action based on information contained herein without first seeking advice from professional legal counsel.