Potentially. Ordinarily, a closing must be conducted, and all the documents signed, in a Georgia attorney’s physical presence. Anything else would be considered unethical. As the Chair of the Real Property Section of the State Bar said recently: “[o]ur Formal Advisory Opinions also do not currently sanction remote closings.”
But these are hardly ordinary times.
With that in mind, on March 27th the Supreme Court of Georgia, in conjunction with Governor Kemp’s declaration of a public health emergency, suspended the requirement that closings occur in an attorney’s physical presence and specifically allowed lawyers to participate and supervise the closing of a real estate transaction by video conference. Virtual closings are permissible as long as there are both a current state of public health emergency as declared by Governor Kemp and a judicial state of emergency as declared by the Georgia Supreme Court. Currently, the judicial state of emergency ends December 9th, unless extended. The public health emergency declaration is also scheduled to expire December 9th, unless it also is extended.
So, does that mean you can close over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or other videoconferencing apps? Again, potentially.
- If there is a lender involved, then the lender also needs to agree to a virtual closing. Given the state of the pandemic, most lenders we’ve dealt with are happy to accommodate a videoconference closing. Not all do, however.
- Virtual closings are only acceptable if all parties are in the state of Georgia. If you are out of state, then unfortunately a videoconference closing is not an option.
With COVID case numbers rebounding, we definitely appreciate and understand everyone’s desire to stay safe and socially distant. We take everyone’s health seriously. If you would like to close by videoconference, please just let us know and we’ll do everything we can to ensure everyone feels safe and sound.