Remote Online Notarization journal: What you should know

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Notarization has been around for decades. Organizations and individuals alike all use the assistance of notaries to get all their legal documents notarized. To get your documents notarized, they need to appoint a notary public. A notary public is defined as an individual that serves as a witness on the signing of legal documents. The notary public is appointed by the state and has to be impartial when witnessing a signing. 

The primary purpose of a notary is to stand witness at the signing and eliminate the risk of fraud. Several traditional notary publics offer notarization services and they can be found in banks, legal offices, and even shipping stores. The only negative aspect to this is the convenience. 

Traditional notaries are available during specific work hours and require you to meet them in person for the notarization process. This will need you to adjust your schedule and make the trip to meet the notary.

If you’re looking for convenience and ease, you don’t want to make trips to the notary’s office to get a notarization done. This has given rise to remote and eNotary services. Although a mobile notary offers convenience, it still requires you to take time out for the notary to arrive at your place. You may be getting the convenience of the notarization service getting done in your own space, but it still takes time, and remote notaries also work during fixed hours.

Enotary is the best solution when it comes to cost-cutting, convenience, and ease. You can get your documents notarized at any time of the day from anywhere you want. With eNotary gaining traction, the next question is the journaling process. Notaries are required to journal and document all their notarization under the law. Some states allow electronic journals, but specific provisions require eNotary services to have audiovisual records as well.

This article will talk all about electronic journals, audiovisual recording, and Remote Online Notarization (RON) services. Find out:

  1. Legal framework
  2. Electronic journal and audiovisual recording requirements for Remote Online Notarization
  3. How to secure RON journal entries and recordings
  4. How to set up and store electronic journals and audiovisual recordings
  5. How to keep track of records when signing up with multiple RON vendors
  6. What to consider when using your own RON journal and recording solution instead of a vendor’s platform
  7. Do you need to keep a journal if you’re commissioned in a state with a temporary remote notarization authorization?
  8. Future of eNotary

Laws in America recognize eNotary and have specific provisions with regulations that eNotary services have to comply with. For example, laws including the ESIGN Act, the “full faith and credit” clause from the Constitution, and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) recognize electronic notarization practices as a valid notarial act. In addition, there are two rules on eNotaries that are effective in several states. These rules are as follows:

  • Authorize notaries to electronically notarize electronic records signed in the presence of the notary
  • Recognize that a notarial act performed in compliance with the laws of one state will be recognized as valid in another state, even if the notarial act does not comply with the laws of the second state. 

With electronic notarization gaining legal validity and several laws validating notarial practices electronically, states started the regulation of Remote Online Notarization (RON). Virginia was the first state to recognize and authorize RON and adopted the statute in 2012. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that 21 other states joined Virginia in authorizing RON. These 21 states include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.

 It is said that more states will have legislation regarding RON in the coming months.

Following are the principles adopted by this legislation, first drafted in Virginia:

  • Establishing what constitutes “personal appearance” for purposes of RON 
  • How to reliably establish the signer’s identity
  • Location of the parties
  • Recordkeeping

In equivalence to the signer’s physical appearance, the laws on RON allow for the substitute of two-way audio-video communication. The physical appearance of the signer is necessary to identify the signer and authenticate the sign. The notary or witness has to have personal knowledge about the signer’s identity to prove it. If that is not the case, there is a credential analysis and a knowledge-based authentication (KBA) test to verify the signer’s identity. This depends on the state the notarization is taking place in, and some states have different legal requirements that need to be met.

Under the law, notaries must keep a journal to keep note of their remote notarization and store a backup copy of the journal. However, depending on the state, there are different guidelines concerning the contents of the journal, how frequently the backup needs to be updated, and other specific requirements about the notary journal.

2. Electronic journal and audiovisual recording requirements for Remote Online Notarization

Depending on the laws about RON in your state, you might need to present an audiovisual report and a journal of your notarization practices. Different states have various requirements for paper notary journals and remote electronic notary journals. 

For example, Texas requires notaries to keep traditional notarization records in a physical journal form. However, if the notarization was done through electronic means, the entries of the notarial act need to be stored as an electronic record.

Now, if we look at Florida, traditional notaries are not required to keep a journal. But, on the other hand, if a notary performs notarization through electronic means, they must keep an electronic journal for all their remote notarization processes.

3. How to secure RON journal entries and recordings

Just like any sensitive information, a notary journal needs to be protected. Several states obligate notaries to ensure that their journal is kept under the sole control of the notary. Under the law, the journal needs to be password protected, have multi-factor authentication enabled, and the journal’s data needs to be encrypted. Furthermore, the data must be immutable, ensuring the notary cannot edit the entry once it is made.

4. How to set up and store electronic journals and audiovisual recordings

Many states require notaries to use RON technology vendors. These vendors provide notaries with the software needed to efficiently and effectively create electronic journals. In addition, RON vendors have built-in record keepers to help you maintain your journals. However, before you opt for a third-party app that can help you create electronic journals, you need to ask the following questions:

  • You need to ensure that the vendor offers storage for electronic journals and audio/video recordings. Under certain state laws, RONs are required to store audio/video recordings, along with their electronic journals. Since this is a primary requirement, you will need to ask your vendor for this service. Some vendors charge extra fees for these services.
  • Accessing your journals and recordings need to be simplified. Under certain laws, it is vital to keep your stored data safe. This means they need to be password protected, have multi-factor authentication enabled, be immutable, and the journal’s data needs to be encrypted. Ensure that your RON vendor offers you these services before choosing one.
  • Laws can vary from state to state, which is why the RON vendor must be following the guidelines set up as per your specific state. Furthermore, the threat of unauthorized access is always looming. Therefore, you need to ensure that your vendor offers appropriate safeguards for your data and reduces the risk of a data breach.
  • As per state guidelines, there is a finite period for which your journals can be stored. If you are a notary, you are legally bound to eliminate the journals. Furthermore, there are specific timelines as per state; for example, certain states permit the storage of journals of up to 10 years.

5. How to keep track of records when signing up with multiple RON vendors

It is crucial to keep track of all your records at all times. A notary is legally bound to store data in electronic journals. If a RON has signed up for multiple vendors, your data is stored in different servers and locations. This data must be tracked, and there should be a secure backup of all your journals and recording in a single place. This will simplify access and help you keep track of all your data.

6. What to consider when using your own RON journal and recording solution instead of a vendor’s platform

Depending on the state you reside in, you can use your own RON journal and recording solution if the law permits. It is essential to ensure that the methods and processes used do comply with the administrative rules and statuses as underlined by your state’s law.

7. Do you need to keep a journal if you’re commissioned in a state with a temporary remote notarization authorization?

Several states have processes in place to authorize RON temporarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to health reasons, states realize the need for remote notaries to minimize the risk of the virus spreading. Furthermore, several states such as Washington and Arizona had permitted the legal standing of RON before the actual statute was passed.

Again, depending on the state you live in, the law determines the guidelines set for temporary remote online notary services. For example, Hawaii requires notaries to store an audio/visual recording of their notarization processes and store a backup on an external hard drive, DVD, or flash drive.

8. Future of eNotary

Often, organizations opt for the eNotary to improve time efficiency and minimize costs. Several remote online notary services can help you create e-signatures and offer 24/7 remote online notarization services to customers and clients. Additionally, opting for an eNotary service can help you simplify the process of notarization.

Paperless notarization can help organizations save space for storing documents and costs associated with printing and storage. In addition, an electronic notary means that all the documentation is online and visible to the concerned individuals of the organization. With the proper safeguards in place, it can ensure security and an updated backup of the document. This may not be easy to do in the case of physical copies.

PandaDoc Notary is an excellent example of a Remote Online Notarization service for notary signing and digital certificates. PandaDoc Notary helps businesses to notarize their electronic documents without having to schedule visits and deal with paperwork.

PandaDoc Notary offers organizations an all-in-one platform to help them legally collect documents, get the electronic signature by the right person, notarize the sign and manage these notarized documents electronically. This can be a good option for a home loan business that requires recurring notarizations and needs to get it done swiftly. 

Learn more about how you can use this solution for your business. Request a demo.

Wrapping up

Enotary is widely getting accepted, and legal statutes of Remote Online Notarization are accepted in a vast majority of states throughout the U.S. That being said, as RON gets recognized, certain obligations come along with it. One such obligation is the storage of journals and audio/video recording in an electronic form. Although this depends on the state, notaries are required to keep journal entries of their notarization process and store them safely and securely. 

Digital signatures are widely accepted in states such as:

  • Arizona
  • Florida (still pending signature from the governor)
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Indiana
  • Maryland (still pending signature from the governor)
  • Kentucky
  • Michigan
  • Montana (revised laws in March 2019)
  • Nevada
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma (pending governor’s signature)
  • South Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Vermont
  • Washington

So ensure that your eNotary is following all the state laws with regards to journal entries and storage.

Guy Pearson has been a commissioned notary for more than seven years. He also runs one of the most established Facebook groups for Remote Online Notarization (RON), with more than 7000 members nationwide. Guy is the co-founder and product leader of PandaDoc Notary. His team drives product initiatives in key verticals, such as Legal, Financial, and Real Estate.

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