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Executing Estate Planning Documents Outside of Attorney's Office

Mailing in Estate DocumentsOccasionally clients will request, for one reason or another, that I mail them the originals of the estate planning documents I prepared for them so that they can have them executed outside of my office at a bank or some other financial institution. 

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!  

Categories: Did you Know?, Estate Planning


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