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Reimagining Health Care Choices: New York’s New Era of Remote Proxy Witnessing

In an era where convenience and safety are paramount, New York State has taken a significant step forward by allowing the remote witnessing of health care proxies. This change is particularly beneficial for individuals who, for medical reasons, cannot safely execute a health care proxy in the presence of two witnesses.
December 29, 2023
HomeBlogReimagining Health Care Choices: New York’s New Era of Remote Proxy Witnessing

Understanding Health Care Proxies

A health care proxy is a vital legal document that enables you to appoint a trusted individual – be it a family member or a close friend – to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This person should be someone who thoroughly understands your health care wishes and values.

Traditional Execution Method

Traditionally, under New York’s Public Health Law, a competent adult could appoint a health care agent through a health care proxy. This process required the document to be signed and dated by the individual in the direct presence of two adult witnesses, who also needed to sign the document.

A Significant Legal Update

However, the landscape changed with the recent amendment to Section 2981 of New York’s Public Health Law. This amendment allows for the remote witnessing of health care proxies using audio-visual technology platforms such as Zoom or FaceTime. To ensure the legality and validity of this process, several conditions must be met:

  1. Identification Requirement: The principal must display a valid photo ID during the audio-video conference if they are not personally known to the remote witness.
  2. Direct Interaction: The audio-video technology must facilitate direct interaction between the principal and the remote witness.
  3. Document Transmission: Within 24 hours of signing, the health care proxy must be sent to the remote witness via facsimile or electronic means.
  4. Witness’s Signature: After receiving the document, the remote witness must sign the transmitted copy and return it to the principal.

Advantages of Remote Witnessing

The ability to remotely witness the signing of health care proxies is a significant advancement, offering practical solutions in various scenarios. It’s particularly useful during times when physical distancing is necessary, such as in a pandemic, or for individuals with mobility challenges. Additionally, the flexibility of remote witnessing is invaluable in urgent situations, where waiting for physical presence of witnesses may not be feasible.

The Role of Elder Law Attorneys

Given the legal intricacies involved in drafting and executing a health care proxy, consulting with an experienced elder law attorney is highly recommended. An elder law attorney can not only prepare a health care proxy tailored to your needs, but also ensure that it integrates seamlessly with your broader estate plan, including other essential documents like a power of attorney and living will.

New York State’s adoption of remote witnessing for health care proxies represents an embrace of technology to enhance legal processes, ensuring that residents can execute important health care decisions safely and efficiently. As legal professionals, we are here to guide you through these innovations, ensuring your peace of mind and the protection of your healthcare rights. If you have any questions about advance directives such as a health care proxy and the correct manner of executing these documents, set up a consultation with one of our attorneys today.