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AARP-VI Urges Members to Call Governor in Support of BR-0155

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Español | A notary’s responsibility is to evaluate and scrutinize the authenticity of important documents by witnessing the willingness of signers and ensuring their awareness of documentation. These documents include but are not limited to property deeds, wills and powers of attorney. Here in the U.S. Virgin Islands., notaries public are under the careful watch of the Lieutenant Governor and a recent measure by the 34th Legislature of the U.S. Virgin Islands has now reached Gov. Albert Bryan’s desk and will ensure notaries are more accessible. This is extremely important now that COVID-19 has put an elongated pause on personal interaction. And though the government is slowly lifting mask mandates and other restrictions, there is still a need for caution.

That’s why BR-0155 is important.

Why this is important:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults are more likely to contract COVID-19, need hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator to help them breathe, or die. Families that fit in this demographic must be aware of their options in estate planning, including care planning, probate and other directives. Notaries play a critical role in ensuring professionals act in the best interests of those who want to legitimize their legacies legally.

Many of these people include AARP-VI’s core membership. That said, BR-0155 is comprehensive legislation that alleviates some of the pressures of estate planning and probate during the pandemic and later. Sponsored by Sen. Novelle Francis Jr., Sen. Carla Joseph and Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, and co-sponsored by Sen. Genevieve Whitaker and Sen. Javan James, the Virgin Islands Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2022) provides for electronic wills and remote notarial acts.

This legislation works in concert with the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2021), recognizing the development and growing impact of electronic records for commercial, governmental and personal transactions. More than 38 states have adopted this progressive statute that provides clarity and stability to conflicting laws regarding notaries public.

BR-0155 is essential because it helps AARP-VI’s 22,000 members who are not only advanced in age but who are retired, disabled or caregivers. It helps with the modernization of recordkeeping and allows the Virgin Islands to lead the United States’ other territories in researching, drafting and promoting the integrity of notarial governance.

“This model legislation creates a framework to implement this statute in this territory. AARP sees this as being inherently important to family caregivers, particularly. Like many caregivers across the nation, Virgin Islanders serving as the primary caregiver for their older parents, spouses and other loved ones often have the legal authority to act on their behalf pursuant to powers of attorney, guardianship, and other such arrangements,” said AARP State Director Troy de Chabert Schuster during hearings before the Senate Government Operations and Consumer Affairs Committee earlier this year.

Specifically, it reinforces AARP-VI and AARP’s stance that states and territories should simplify estate planning and probate. This includes allowing electronic wills or trusts to govern the distribution of property at death. AARP-VI also believes that the act – known as Virgin Islands Code, title 3, chapter 29 – amends the outdated policy and addresses the use of technology to expand the availability and convenience of estate planning services in the territory. This includes electronic execution of wills and electronic and remote notarization of documents. It also provides the appropriate protections to prevent fraud, abuse, exploitation, and coercion.

How our members can help:

AARP-VI is asking our Virgin Islanders to contact Gov. Bryan’s office at (340) 774-0001 to encourage him to sign BR-0155. He has until April 8, 2022, to address the bill by signing or vetoing it, or it passes automatically. And while AARP-VI would be happy with the automatic passage of the bill, we would be gratified if the governor openly supported this measure because a win for AARP-VI is a win for its members who live in this great territory.

“AARP is particularly concerned that all of the citizens and caregivers have continuous access to transact business. And execute legal documents during this pandemic and beyond. The law provides access to this basic but essential service,” said de Chabert-Schuster. It is important that the Virgin Islands be on the cutting edge of this digital age and be the first territory to permanently adopt (the bill), thereby giving access to remote notarization.”

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