Certain legal documents must be witnessed and also possibly notarized in order to be valid. Others are witnessed and/or notarized because it’s considered best practice to avoid disputes later. With States issuing stay at home orders, how can people satisfy legal requirements and best practices of document execution while following the law and taking the necessary steps to protect their health and the health of others? This is a question legal professionals and government officials nationwide have been wrestling with since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For Court-related documents, Delaware’s Supreme Court declared a judicial emergency and issued an Administrative Order suspending the need for notarized filings while the State of Emergency remains in effect. In place of such sworn statements, any person may submit a document that would otherwise require notarization with a declaration that the contents of the filing are being made under penalty of perjury.
For other legal documents not being filed with the Court such as wills and deeds, Governor Carney issued a modification to his Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency, allowing Delaware attorneys to oversee document signings and to notarize such documents utilizing audio-visual technology where all parties can hear and see each other in real time, provided that certain conditions are met. These conditions include that all persons involved with the signing be physically located in Delaware, that the person overseeing the signing or notarizing the documents affirmatively determines the identities of the people signing during the video conference. After signing, the parties must send their respectively signed documents to the attorney or notary who will then sign and/or notarize the documents. Except for wills, all Delaware governmental and administrative agencies must accept copies or electronic copies of signatures. The will bearing the original signature of the attorney will be considered the one original will for probate purposes.
Connolly Gallagher is fully-equipped and prepared to oversee document executions during this State of Emergency. If you, or someone you know, needs to execute a document which requires notarization and/or witnessing, please contact our Trusts and Estates team.