The job of a notary is to screen and confirm the identity of a signer for a form of documents, the signer’s willingness to sign the documents, and the signer’s awareness of the content of the documents. This is usually done by asking the signer for valid identification and being observant and cognizant of the signer’s ability to sign as he or she reviews the documentation and signs it.
Notarization has traditionally been a face-to-face production, but COVID-19 forced a change to the notary process. To limit exposure to the virus, many people have turned to remote electronic notarization.
Let’s explore how to do an electronic notarization, what states allow electronic notarization and how it is done today:
- What is remote notarization?
- Which states allow remote notarization?
- How to prepare a business for remote notarization
- What is RON and how does this technology work?
- Will a remote notary increase a company’s market value?
- How to become a remote online notary?
1. What is remote notarization?
Remote notarization is different from in-person electronic notarization, and both options are different from in-person notarization.
- Requires a physical paper with an original signature
- Signer and notary meet face-to-face
- Signer must present notary with proof of identification, such as a driver’s license
- Signer signs document with pen and ink
- Notary completes certificate wording, signs it in pen and ink, and affixes a seal
- Notary keeps record of the notarization
In-person electronic notarization
- Requires a document in an electronic format, such as a PDF or Word file
- Document is presented to notary via computer, laptop, or mobile device
- Signer must present a notary with proof of identification such as a driver’s license
- Signer signs with electronic signature executed by mouse click, signature pad, or other electronic process
- Notary signs document with electronic signature and affixes electronic seal
- Notary keeps record of the notarization
Remote Online Notarization
- Requires document in an electronic format, such as a PDF or Word file
- Signer and notary meet electronically via webcam
- Signers are identified through knowledge-based authentication (KBI) and remote presentation
- Signer signs document electronically
- Notary signs document electronically and affixes electronic seal
- RON (Remote Online Notarization) platform creates journal entry, and the recording of the webcam meeting is affixed to the record
Remote notarization has been the preferred notarization method due to the COVD-19 pandemic, since remote notarization can be done completely electronically, with no need for in-person interactions that could potentially spread the virus. In addition to the safety of the public, Remote Online Notarization offers convenience, flexibility, and cost-effective notarization services.
Many of the traditional document processes that require notarization are now digital. Mortgage papers can be completed online, and much of the legal process has become virtual to accommodate COVID-19 restrictions. Remote online notarization allows the notary process to accommodate these changes and adapt to the current needs.
Remote Online Notarization is also cost-effective. Traditionally, a notary would need to travel to a signer, mail documents, and create copies if necessary. If the notary process is performed online, the travel and processing expenses are not necessary expenses.
Efficiency is another advantage of Remote Online Notarization. The remote feature removes the travel time, thereby speeding up the notary process. A document can be sent at any time, which means signers do not need to take time out of work or their personal lives. For businesses, online notarization can reduce business expenses and time as well. Moreover, the paperless benefit of online notarization reduces storage and printing costs. The digital storage also makes recalling documents simpler and more secure.
2. Which states allow remote notarization?
Notarization requirements vary from state to state. Some states will allow electronic record keeping, while others require a leather-bound log. Likewise, the transition to remote online notarization has differed in some states.
Virginia paved the way for remote online notarization in 2011 and was the first state to adopt its use. Montana was next in 2015, followed by Nevada and Texas in 2017. These states adapted to the changing technology, by passing laws that allowed the visual inspection portion of the notary process to be done via audio-video technology options.
Other states swiftly joined the remote online notary process in 2020, adapting to the social distancing necessary to limit virus exposure. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, 38 states have elected some form of electronic notarization, with 33 states passing laws to allow the use of remote online notarization. Right now, 47 states have issued laws or emergency orders to authorize the use of remote online notarization. Bipartisan legislation has been proposed that would allow the use of remote online notarization nationwide.
These states allow Remote Online Notarization through emergency order:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
These states have laws in place to support Remote Online Notarization:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
These states have laws effective in 2022 to authorize Remote Online Notarization:
- New Mexico
- New Hampshire
3. How to prepare a business for remote notarization
The challenges associated with converting to Remote online notarization include updating business technology, electronic storage, and electronic data security.
The first step in preparing a business for remote online notarization is to check your state’s legislative measures that have allowed for this notarization process. These bills will likely outline the requirements and framework for how Remote Online Notarization (RON) will work in your states. The bills should be reviewed for dates and definitions. Stay informed about the application acceptance dates, classes, and exams that will be necessary to become an online notary.
While each state can offer its own guidance for the technology supporting Remote Online Notarization, there are several technology companies that are available to service RON. These companies include PandaDoc Notary, DocVerify, eNotaryLog, Nexsys, Notarize, NotaryCam, NotaryLive, OnlineNotary.us, Pavaso, Safedocs, and SIGNiX.
Notaries are required to maintain records of their notarizations in any state. Electronic data management and storage is now a logistical matter for notaries. Storage of these records is not always mandated, but to protect yourself and the data of your notarizations, these records should be stored securely on an electronic storage device that is properly protected via a secure password or other cryptographic process. This will protect the notary information from cyber attacks or other data breach threats or concerns.
Some states allow notaries to contract with a data depository, or a third-party company that maintains electronic records securely. This will allow the notary to maintain records of their notarizations without the burden of personally storing large amounts of electronic data. `
With cyber security threats becoming more predominant with the transition to remote work, remote online notaries may want to consider purchasing financial protection for their notary business through securing cyber threat liability insurance policies.
4. What is RON and how does this technology work?
There are several companies who support the technology necessary to complete the RON process. PandaDoc Notary software platform has the necessary features for Remote Online Notarization. PandaDoc Notary offers secure identity verification that helps to reduce fraud and adheres to state standards. The knowledge-based authentication (KBA) questions and ID validation are included in every notary transaction.
PandaDoc Notary allows users to edit documents, reuse templates, invite multiple signers, utilize multiple documents, and auto generate notary stamps. The software records each session and stores them on a cloud-based electronic journaling.
The requirements for remote online notarization technology extend beyond just the software platform, including the following:
It is important to have a secure, fast, and reliable internet connection. The audio-visual recordings require a reliable and secure network for ease of communication and secure recordings.
Digital notary seal
Whichever RON service provider you select will need to provide a list of third-party vendors from whom you can purchase a X.509 compliant digital certificate. This digital certificate provides evidence that the notarized document has not been edited or changed since it was signed. This is a legal requirement for online notarization.
Audio/video communication technology
A notary performing a remote online notarization will need to provide sufficient computer technology to perform the audio/visual recording requirements. This includes a computer, laptop, or tablet that has a web camera feature and recording potential, as well as a microphone and speakers. This technology also needs to have sufficient audio clarity and video resolution to allow the signer and notary to see and communicate with each other in a live, real-time transmission. This technology must also employ reasonable security measures such as virus and malware protection to prevent unauthorized access to the live transmissions or the recorded transmissions.
Identity proofing and credential analyzing tools
RON requires a three-step identification process: identity proof of the signer, credential analysis, and remote presentation of the signer’s identity.
Your remote online service provider will need to provide you with electronic journals to comply with your state notary laws.
Backup and storage
Electronic journals and audio/video recordings must be stored and backed up. Most states will also require a backup system for your electronic journal and recorded sessions.
5. Will a remote notary increase a company’s market value?
A remote online notary has the potential to increase a company’s market value. Identifying yourself or your company as adaptable to technology and societal needs provides the potential to increase a company’s market value. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us that the need for reliable electronic notarization through remote application is very important. Those companies that can adapt to this need will be more appealing to consumers.
A notary may be needed for a variety of document services, such as:
- Adoption paperwork
- Advanced healthcare directive
- Deed of trust
- Mortgage grant
- Power of Attorney
- Living will
- Safety deposit box verification
- Selling a home
- Selling a vehicle
- Selling property
- Passport applications
The use of a notary helps prevent fraud. Notaries can also help with litigated disputes, affidavits, sworn statements, or other legal documents submitted for the purposes of litigation. If your business operated in any of these areas, or you are a notary associated with any of these businesses, you could benefit from offering Remote Online Notarization services.
6. How to become a remote online notary?
The first step to becoming a remote online notary is to verify that your state authorizes the use of remote online notarization. If you verify your state participates in remote online notary services, your state will provide regulations surrounding the process and you will need to verify that you can meet these requirements.
- Meet your states qualifications to become a traditional notary
- Apply for or register to perform virtual notarizations
- Pay the state’s application fees
- Complete RON-specific testing or training as required by your state
- Obtain remote online notary tools and technology, such as an eSeal and digital certificate
- Choose a state-approved RON vendor
- Obtain a surety bond to cover remote online notarizations
- Purchase an E&O insurance policy that covers RONs
- Submit any and all documents required by your state’s laws.
Your state may require that you hold a commission as a traditional notary before you can apply to become a remote online notary. The requirements vary state by state, but most states include the following requirements to become a notary:
- You must be at least 18 years of age
- You must be a legal resident of the state wherein you are applying to be a notary
- You must have no felony convictions
Remote Online Notarization helps save space, time, and money while providing the additional benefits of both safety and security. The adaptation of online notarization helps keep notaries on par with the other technological changes of the legal, medical, and financial communities that affect the role of the notary.
To learn more, check with your local state’s guidelines and requirements for how to begin the process for becoming a notary and providing your clients with remote online notary services.