Mon. Jul 26th, 2021

ALBANY — As New York’s pandemic death toll mounted, grieving relatives often faced frustrating logjams due to legal requirements that an original signature be used on documents authorizing transport of the remains from crowded hospitals.

Legislation that sailed through both houses of the Legislature and has now been signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo rectifies the situation by allowing electronic signatures on funeral and cemetery documents.

David Fleming, legislative director for the New York State Association of Cemeteries, recalled that remains of COVID-19 patients ran into delays in death arrangements because of the physical signature mandate. One example of how the death planning stalled came when a spouse of a patient who died was unable to immediately provide a hard copy of an authorization signature, and ended up being quarantined for COVID-19 and succumbing to the infection.

Another common situation, which was in play even before the pandemic, came when a person died in New York while other family members were in Florida or Europe, Fleming said. The relatives had to get the authorizations signed by a witness, and then sent by Fed Ex back to New York to get the funeral process moving.

Allowing electronic signatures was already permitted for such documents as mortgages, and the new legislation allows them for the cemetery services, so the documents can be instantly transmitted via a smartphone or laptop.