Executing Estate Planning Documents Outside of Attorney's Office

Foster Swift Collins & Smith
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Foster Swift Collins & Smith

I prefer to have the documents executed in my office for a variety of reasons, which include:   

  • I have the ability to make last minute client-requested additions or revisions to the documents. This can’t happen if the documents are executed outside of my office. 
  • I have the opportunity to review the documents with my clients before they sign them, as well as answer any questions they might have. I can’t do this if the documents are executed outside of my office. 
  • I don’t have to worry about:
    • My clients accidentally forgetting to sign one or more of the documents.
    • My clients failing to follow my instructions regarding the execution of the documents.
    • Receiving the signed documents from my clients with pages missing or having food and/or coffee stains on them – this has actually happened on more than one occasion!

If I can’t talk my clients out of executing the documents outside of my office, I make sure that they are aware of the execution requirements for each document. I advise them that best practice dictates that there be two independent non-related witnesses for those documents that require witnesses, as well as an independent non-related notary public for those documents that require execution in front of a notary. Since a notary can serve as one of the witnesses, two independent non-related individuals, with one of them being a notary, need to be available for the execution of the documents. This, in many instances, is easier said than done because banks and other financial institutions may very well provide a notary, but typically will not allow an employee to be a witness. 

Consequently, if you decide to have your estate planning documents executed outside of your lawyer’s office, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by making sure that you already have two independent non-related witnesses, one of whom is a notary public, lined up for the execution of those documents. If you just show up at a bank expecting those individuals to be made available to you, you could be in for a rude awakening. Oh and one more thing, please do not use your estate planning documents as a coaster for your coffee cup! Your attorney will be eternally grateful!  

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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