Limited Suspension of Physical Presence Requirement for Notaries

Governor Abbott has now issued an order temporarily allowing regular notaries to acknowledge certain documents by videoconference. Specifically, this order applies to:

  • self-proving affidavits for wills;
  • durable powers of attorney;
  • medical powers of attorney;
  • directives to physicians; and
  • oaths of executors, administrators, and guardians.

The notary must take appropriate steps to verify the signer’s identity, as described in more detail in this press release; the signer must transmit a legible copy of the signed document to the notary by fax or electronic means, and the notary may then acknowledge the transmitted copy and transmit it back to the signer by fax or electronic means. Please note that the order does not modify any physical presence requirements for a witness, only for a notary.

Note that the probate court is not handling any contested hearings or matters that would require a jury or live witnesses. The Tarrant County Probate Courts are handling probate of self-proven wills via Zoom. These are only available if the will was self-proven before a notary. That means that the Tarrant County Courts will not generally hear probate matters where the will was handwritten, where the original will was lost, or if the decedent did not have a will. Judges in Johnson County are hearing certain matters on written submission of testimony in certain uncontested matters. The Texas Supreme Court has encouraged local courts to try to adapt ways to continue allowing cases to move forward, and this is a developing process that changes daily on a case-by-case and county-by-county basis.

The Tarrant County Probate Courts are appointing temporary administrator’s without hearings to handle emergencies.

We at Gordon & Sykes are not doing in-person depositions or mediations at this time, nor are we doing in-person will signings, however, we have a “work around” for wills. If you are able to find two disinterested witnesses and have the ability to sign documents and submit them to us electronically or via fax, we can do will signings via teleconference such as FaceTime or Zoom. We can also do trusts and funding documents that can take effect immediately and can be notarized and filed at later dates to record the transfers publicly. Also, we are able to do all business matters including forming or terminating business entities, lending, and business agreements without any problem.

Gordon & Sykes is in full compliance of all social distancing requirements ordered to date. Even under these conditions, we are working and available to do many of the legal services that are so vitally important to our clients. Please feel free to reach out to me or any of our attorneys at any time with questions.