This year to date, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed 192 executive orders, with the majority of these orders relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several of these orders permitted remote witnessing, remote notarization, and electronic signing of estate planning documents, which allowed clients and their attorneys to sign estate planning and real estate documents from virtually anywhere.
When the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Governor had no authority to extend emergency declarations used to mandate COVID-19 restrictions beyond April 30, 2020, the validity of estate planning documents that had been remotely witnessed, notarized, and/or signed after that date became an open question.
On Thursday, November 5, Gov. Whitmer signed several bills into law to address this issue. 2020 PA 246, 247, 248, and 249. These new laws give effect to documents witnessed, signed, or notarized remotely from April 30, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Additionally, registers of deeds are required to accept electronic documents for recording and to accept a physical copy of an electronically signed document that is properly notarized through the end of 2020. However, as of January 1, 2021, remote witnessing and notarization will again be unavailable unless further legislation is passed, so there is a limited window of opportunity to take advantage of these changes.
If you have any questions about these new laws, or if you want to discuss the advisability of using remote witnessing, notarization, or signing through the end of the year, please contact your Varnum estate planning attorney.