Executive Order Encourages Remote Legal Practices During Coronavirus Pandemic

Fountain pen and handmade paper

Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently issued an executive order calling for the use of remote legal practices during the coronavirus pandemic. Executive Order 2020-41 encourages law offices and other similar practices to use electronic signatures, remote notarization, remote witnessing, and virtual visitation in order to encourage individuals to practice social distancing and help slow the spread of the virus. The order will make it much easier for attorneys and other legal professionals to continue handling necessary legal documents during the pandemic.

What Has Changed

Executive Order 2020-41 has temporarily eased certain legal requirements regarding document completion and notarization, meaning attorneys are better able to follow health and safety guidelines regarding COVID-19 while still continuing to assist clients in a variety of legal matters.

Notably, the order has allowed for the following changes:

  • Witnesses who previously were required to provide in-person testimony/accounts may now do so via audio-video technology. The technology used must be two-way, must be conducted in real time, and must be stored for a period of at least three years unless otherwise specified by law.
  • Notarization may be conducted via two-way audio-video technology that is conducted in real time, rather than in person. The same is true of witness attestation/acknowledgement; such procedures may be conducted virtually if the parties are able to communicate audibly and visually in real time.
  • Tangible copies of electronic records are permissible and cannot be refused by banks, financial institutions, or registers of deeds if the notary in question confirms the accuracy of the record.

Put simply, the executive order has facilitated the completion of legal documents during the coronavirus pandemic, in which people are encouraged to stay safe at home and avoid coming into close contact with others. The order, which was announced in early April, is effective immediately and lasts until May 6, 2020.

Attorney Katie Clark is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and has vast experience with estate planning. Our firm assists clients in a wide variety of cases, including those involving personal injury, wrongful death, criminal defense, employment law, Social Security disability, probate and estate planning. For more information, or if you need help with a legal matter, contact Upper Michigan Law.