New Law Allows Remote Notaries; Makes Estate Planning Easier

Governor Inslee issues order permitting documents to be notarized remotely.

For a limited period of time, notaries have the ability to electronically notarize documents without having the signor physically in the notary’s presence. This policy is in the interest of social distancing and is a significant benefit to those who want to execute a Will, power of attorney, or other official document, yet follow the social distancing guidelines outlined by state and federal authorities.

The Washington State Legislature passed SB 5641 last year, which authorizes an electronic records notary public to perform a notarial act on behalf of a remotely located individual who is not in the notary's physical presence. This bill is due to go into effect in October of this year. However, because of the social distancing precautions in place, the activities authorized by this bill are needed now, not in five months. Hence, the governor’s proclamation.

To perform a remote notarization, a notary must use a communications technology, such as an electronic device, allowing the notary to simultaneously communicate with the remote individual in both sight and sound. The notary may perform a notarial act for a remote individual if the notary:

· has personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remote individual;

· is able to confirm that the record before the notary is the same as the record before the remote individual;

· creates an audio-visual recording of the notary act; and

· the record relates to a matter before an entity subject to the jurisdiction of the United States for a remote individual located outside of the United States.

Governor Inslee Temporarily Implements Remote Notary Services Law

In furtherance of social distancing, remote notary services are temporarily allowed.

The National Notary Association reported that Washington Governor issued a Proclamation regarding SB 5641, which authorized notarial acts to be performed for remotely located individuals. "The law was supposed to take effect on October 1, 2020, but the emergency Proclamation makes the new law effective temporarily from March 27, 2020, through midnight of April 26, 2020."

This authorization will aid help people in executing estate plans, powers of attorney, community property agreements, trusts, and other documents they may need during this time of uncertainty.

The bill directs the Department of Licensing to adopt rules to implement the bill, but the Department has not yet adopted rules for remote notarization.

Remote Legal services reports "Major Law Firms Rush To Enact Remote Working As Coronavirus Fears Mount." Both to protect employees and clients, law firms are shifting to remote transactions, consultations, and services.

Many of the services provided by the Bedford Law Office, P.S. can easily be accomplished remotely.

Most estate planning services can be done remotely. The initial consultation can be conducted over the phone. Drafting and review can be accomplished via email. While clients will need to come to the office to get the documents witnessed notarized, it's a short 10-minute process and you are on your way again!

Contract consultations and review can be conducted remotely completely via email and phone.

Business start-ups and formalities can be started and finished entirely online. In fact, shifting a business from a sole proprietorship to an LLC or corporation may be particularly important right now given the current state of the economy because corporations will limit the effects of a business failure on personal assets and credit.

Feel free to call our friendly attorneys for a quick consultation!

3 estate-planning mistakes

2/1/2020 - C.D. MORIARTY recently published an article in MarketWatch regarding three estate planning mistakes people can make. The three mistakes are:

  1. Having no will. Or having one written in another state .
  2. Confusing estate taxes with probate
  3. Ignoring easy ways to keep some assets out of probate

The author says that a stunning 60% of adults in the U.S. have no will or estate plan. Even more have a will that needs to be updated.

The author says, even if your estate is too small to be subject to federal estate tax (less than $11.58 million), you still will be subject to probate. In Washington state, the estate tax is imposed on probate assets over just a little more than $2 million. The bottom line, he concludes, is that you still need an estate plan.

The article also points out the streamlined probate process for small estates. In Washington, probates of less than $100,000 that contain no real property, can be adjudicated with the small estate process. You can prepare for this several ways.

  1. Modify the way in which you own your real property. Put your property in trusts or LLC's. You can also use joint tenancies with the right of survivorship, transfer on death deeds, and other similar deed's.
  2. Ensure your bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other financial assets have a "payable on death beneficiary" (POD). This ensures that your financial resources go directly to the beneficiaries and do not get tied up in probate.
  3. Ensure you have your life insurance beneficiaries updated.

It's an interesting article that is worth a read, so click here to check it out.