Remote Online Notarization
Notarization in the time of Corona
With the onset of social distancing and working remotely, finding solutions to keep your practice running without interruption is critical to your bottom line. In addition to working from home, you now have the added task of figuring out how to get documents notarized when no one wants to (or has been ordered to not) leave their house.
Fortunately, whether it’s verifying interrogatory responses or swearing to an affidavit, many states now allow you to utilize remote online notaries for executing a document.
So, what is remote online notarization?
Instead of having to be physically present before a notary to execute a document, a signer just needs to appear before the notary via webcam or similar audio-visual technology.
As of March 1, 2020, 22 states have passed and/or enacted remote online notary laws. Out of those 22 states, seventeen of them have fully implemented the procedures, including:
^Indiana - although the legislation has been enacted, their application process is not yet up and running.
^^Kentucky - although effective January 1, 2020, I cannot locate the relevant application on the Kentucky Secretary of State’s website.
^^^North Dakota & South Dakota - although effective as of July 1, 2019, I cannot verify the application for the same on the relevant Secretary of State websites.
^^^^Vermont - Although enacted, the Vermont Secretary of State’s website still says online notarization is prohibited until certain rules and standards have been adopted.
Please note that many states require that you already be a commissioned public notary before you apply to perform remote online notarizations.
An additional five states have enacted remote online notarization laws, but they have not yet taken effect. These include:
Arizona, set to take effect July 1, 2020.
Iowa, set to take effect July 1, 2020.
Maryland, set to take effect October 1, 2020.
Nebraska, set to take effect July 1, 2020.
Washington, set to take effect October 1, 2020.
Please check with your state’s relevant statute to determine their specific application requirements and procedures regarding remote online notarization.
What does this mean for you?
If you think it will be of value to you and/or your clients, I suggest you have one of your paralegals or legal assistants obtain authorization to perform remote online notarizations. For most state applications, there is a waiting period for you to get approved, so I would have your paralegal apply as soon as possible to get the process started. No one knows exactly when work-from-home mandates will be lifted, so it is likely in your best interest to take action sooner rather than later.
Recognition of out-of-state notarizations
Mostly every state provides in codified form the recognition of out-of-state notarizations, with some possessing more caveats than others. For instance, Iowa recognizes out-of-state notarizations, but only if the signer was physically present before the foreign state’s notary. However, Iowa is the outlier here and most states honor out-of-state notarizations.
How does this potentially help you and your practice? Many states say that they recognize out of state notarizations if done in the manner and form prescribed by the laws of the place of execution. So if you live in State A, and your client gets a document notarized in State B, chances are highly likely that State A will honor State B’s notarization.
So, for remote online notarization purposes, does this mean I can present Alabama (which does not currently have a law allowing remote online notarizations) with a deed that was done remotely in Montana while the client was in Alabama? Montana’s laws allow for this type of remote notarization, and a plain reading of Alabama’s statute allows for recognition of the same. I think there is some gray area in there with which to work going forward, and I would love to know your thoughts on this! Feel free to email me with your comments (address provided below).
Given the current state of affairs, I think this is a good testing ground for these remote online notarization statutes, and I expect most of the remaining states will be adapting to enact the same.
Need a citation to a particular remote online notarization statute or law regarding the recognition of an out-of-state notarization? Feel free to email me at JTurk@lawpay.com.
About Jordan Turk
Jordan is a practicing attorney and the Legal Content and Compliance Manager at LawPay.