(Friday, April 10, 2020) Today, Governor Hogan enacted an emergency order to allow wills, powers of attorney, and advance directives to be witnessed remotely, i.e. by video conference. Click here to read the order.
Currently, the law requires witnesses to be physically present when these documents are signed. The Executive Order is an emergency measure that suspends certain statutory in-person witnessing requirements for the duration of the COVID-19 State of Emergency.
The MSBA Estates & Trusts Section (E&T) leadership, Danielle Cruttenden (Section Chair), Anne Coventry (Section Chair-elect), Jonathan Lasley (Immediate Past Chair), and Senator Chris West were instrumental in the development and crafting of the order. Further, they were instrumental in conveying to the Governor’s Office the pressing need for relief from statutory constraints which have hampered the efforts of Maryland attorneys to execute estate planning documents since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The E&T Section has already drafted emergency legislation designed to sustain remote witnessing after the expiration of the Governor’s Executive Order, which occurs upon the termination of the COVID-19 State of Emergency. That legislation will be introduced either during a 2020 Special Session of the General Assembly (should the pandemic subside), or in the next Regular Session in January 2021.