Executing Wills in Vermont Amid COVID-19

Note that all Sheehey guidance regarding COVID-19 is subject to change, as the legal landscape is evolving rapidly. Please note the date of publication for this bulletin, and be aware that things may have changed since then. Please check our COVID-19 landing page for the most up-to-date posts and contact us with any questions.

Under most circumstances, in order to execute a will under Vermont law, the following requirements must be met:

  • The will must be in writing;
  • The will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) or another person in the presence of the testator and at the testator’s express direction; and
  • The will must be attested and subscribed to by at least two credible witnesses in the presence of the testator and of each other.

Stated more simply, a Vermont will signing ceremony requires at least three persons to be present together at the same time, in the same room, all in view of one another, and with all placing a wet ink signature to the same paper document.  This poses significant challenges in the time of COVID-19.

To help facilitate the safe execution of wills during this pandemic, Vermont has enacted Senate Bill 316.  Under this change in Vermont law, a person may remotely witness a will signing ceremony by following the procedures set out in the Vermont Secretary of State’s Emergency Administrative Rules for Remote Notarial Acts, including:

  • The witness must have personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remotely located testator;
  • The witness must be able to reasonably confirm that the will before them is the same will that the remotely located testator is signing;
  • The witness must sign a tangible paper will submitted to them in its original paper format by the remotely located testator or transmitted electronically to the witnesses by the remotely located testator and printed by the witness prior to witnessing the testator’s will signing; and
  • An audio-visual recording of the performance of the remote will signing and witnessing must be taken and retained for at least 7 years.

Exactly how this process will work will depend on your situation and access to technology.  To contact our Estate Planning team, email us at [email protected]