Attorney at Sykes Elder Law Signs Will Online Under New Pennsylvania Law

After Pennsylvania adopted a new law allowing online notarization during the COVID-19 crisis, attorneys struggled to adopt the new technology.

Now at least one attorney has successfully signed his own will, power of attorney, and health care directives online – officially witnessed and notarized – with technology approved for use by Pennsylvania Act 15, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on April 20.

Andrew G. Sykes, Managing Attorney of Sykes Elder Law in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania, decided to try the novel process to update his own estate plan before using it with clients. “I ‘signed’ my estate plan documents and had them officially witnessed and notarized without leaving home,” Sykes said. “This may be the beginning of a new way lawyers serve their clients.”

Prior to the new law, such documents could be notarized only if signed in the physical presence of a notary public. Act 15 authorizes temporary use of “remote online notarization” during the COVID-19 emergency and for 60 days after it ends.

But having that authorization didn’t solve the problem of getting vital documents signed by clients confined to a nursing home, or who fear contact with others during the emergency. Few if any attorneys had notaries on staff that had the required “e-notary” approval and were signed up to work with a vendor authorized by the Pennsylvania Department of State.

“Demand is so high with vendors right now that it can be hard to get through to a sales representative,” Sykes said, “and the process for getting approved by the Department of State is time-consuming. But I found a Pennsylvania notary who was already approved and signed up with an authorized vendor before the crisis began.”

That notary, Samantha Payne of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, had the required DOS approval to perform remote online notarizations and had signed up to work with DocVerify, a service based in Irvine, California that is on DOS’ Approved Remote Online Notarization (RON) Vendors list.

Even though Payne was equipped to perform remote online notarizations, she had not yet had an occasion to do so. Working with Sykes gave her the chance to put the audio-visual technology through its paces. “It was a great learning experience,” Payne said.

Sykes feels relieved to have his will, power of attorney, and health care directives in place during the pandemic crisis. “On a personal level, it’s nice to know these documents are fully up to date in case something happens to me. On a professional level, I’m glad to know I can use the technology to help clients who are unable to meet with me in person.”

Sykes wrote a blog post on this topic. He also posted a video to YouTube describing how he got his estate plan signed online, and showing two brief clips from the actual signing.

​Media Contact:

Andrew G. Sykes
Phone: 412.531.7123

Source: Sykes Elder Law, LLC


Categories: Law News

Tags: Act 15 of 2020, elder law, law, Pennsylvania, remote online notarization

About Sykes Elder Law, LLC

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Elder law firm providing services to individuals and families in estate planning, Medicaid planning, and estate administration. Founder and Managing Attorney Andrew G. Sykes is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation.

Sykes Elder Law, LLC
615 Washington Road (Suite 304)
Pittsburgh, PA 15228
United States