Remote Electronic Notarization

Background on Remote Electronic Notarization

The notarization process is designed to prevent fraud and forgery by having a third-party (notary public) ensure the signature on a document is authentic, and the signer knows what they are signing and does so voluntarily. Documents that typically require a notarization include healthcare directives, affidavits, powers of attorney, wills and real estate documents. While state laws on notarial acts vary, the key components of the notarization process in all states include personal appearance of the signer before the notary, and verification of the signer’s identity by the notary.

Traditionally, all notarial acts involved a paper document. However, beginning around 2000, state and federal laws authorized notaries to use an electronic signature for notarial acts. In response to these developments, a National E-Notarization Commission, endorsed by NASS, was formed to develop technology neutral standards for the secure implementation of electronic notarization. The standards, which were supported by NASS in 2006, require the notary’s electronic signature and electronic seal be capable of independent verification, and be attached to or logically associated with the electronic certificate in a way that shows evidence of any changes.   

After the national e-notarization standards were developed, a number of states enacted laws authorizing electronic notarization. Many of these laws included provisions based on the standards, including requiring physical presence before the notary in order to meet the personal appearance requirement. However, in 2011 Virginia became the first state to authorize remote electronic notarization (remote e-notarization), followed by Montana in 2015 and Nevada and Texas in 2017.  Under these new laws, the personal appearance requirement for notarial acts could be met through the use of audio/video technology (such as a webcam), with the notary and signer in different geographic locations.

As additional states began introducing legislation on remote notarization, Secretaries of State requested NASS form a Remote E-Notarization Task Force to examine the relevant issues and technology. In 2018, based on recommendations from the Task Force, NASS adopted revised national e-notarization standards to include standards for remote e-notarization. The revised standards were designed to reflect existing state laws and model acts on remote e-notarization, as well as input from Task Force members and stakeholders.

In addition to expanding the definition of personal appearance to include audio-video communication, the revised standards require multiple means of verifying the signer’s identity (e.g. Knowledge Based Authentication and credential analysis), as well as measures to ensure the security and privacy of the audio-video communication.

It is important to note NASS’ adoption of the national e-notarization standards is not an endorsement of either e-notarization or remote e-notarization. NASS does not have a position on this issue. The standards are intended as guidelines for states to consider if they choose to implement one or both of these methods. In 2020 NASS reathorized a Resolution Affirming the Role of the Secretary of State or Other State Notary Commissioning Entity as Sole Authority to Establish Standards for New Forms of Notarization.

Current Status of Remote Notarization

Of the 38 states that authorize some form e-notarization, 25 of these states currently have a law that allows for remote e-notarization (see list below). Approximately half of these states have developed rules or regulations, while others are in the process of doing so. Many of the state laws and regulations on remote e-notarization reflect the updated national e-notarization standards, though the specific requirements and procedures vary among states.   

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, several states have issued emergency orders, guidance, or regulations temporarily authorizing the use of remote e-notarization (see list below). Some of these states have existing laws that will take effect in the coming months. Currently 48 states and Washington D.C. authorize remote e-notarization either through an existing law, or emergency action.  

Bipartisan legislation was also recently introduced in the Senate (S. 3533) that would authorize e-notarization and remote e-notarization during the duration of the national emergency declaration due to COVID-19.   

Additionally, several states that do not currently authorize remote e-notarization have issued guidance or information on notarization during the COVID-19 crisis, including California.

State Laws Authorizing Remote e-Notarization 

*Alaska (2020; effective 1/1/21) (see emergency law below)
Arizona (2019) 
  - administrative rules
*Colorado (2020; effective 12/31/20) (see emergency order below)
Florida (2019)
  - administrative rules
Idaho (2019)
  - administrative rules
Indiana  (2018)
Iowa (2019)
  - draft administrative rules
Kentucky (2019)
*Maryland (2019; effective 10/1/20) (see emergency order below)
Michigan (2018)  
  - executive (emergency) order on remote notarization requirements
Minnesota (2018)
Montana (2019)
  - administrative rules
Nebraska (2019) 
Nevada (2017)
  - administrative rules
North Dakota (2019)
  - guidance
Ohio (2019)
  - administrative rules
Oklahoma (2020)
  - administrative rules
South Dakota (2019)
Tennessee (2018)
 - administrative rules; executive (emergency) order on remote notarization requirements
Texas (2017)
  - administrative rules; executive order temporarily expanding remote notarial acts 
Utah (2019)
  - administrative rules
Virginia (2011)
  - standards
Vermont (2019)
emergency rule; guidance on emergency rule
*Washington (2019; effective 10/1/20) (see emergency order below)
Wisconsin (2020) 

Emergency Orders/Actions Authorizing Remote e-Notarization (updated 6/30/20)
Note: unless otherwise indicated, orders are effective through duration of emergency 

Alabama (3/26/20; updated 4/2/20) (Proclamation by Governor)
Alaska1 (4/9/20) (Law authorizing remote notarization through 3/11/21)
Arkansas2 (3/30/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
Colorado (3/27/20) (Executive Order by Governor; extended through 12/31/20)
  - Notary Program Rules
Connecticut (3/23/20) (Executive Order by Governor; extended through emergency)
District of Columbia (Emergency Amendment; extended through 9/6/20)
Delaware 3 (4/15/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
Georgia4 (3/31/20; updated 4/10/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
Hawaii (3/29/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
- Emergency Rules
Illinois (3/26/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
- Secretary of State Emergency Guidance
Kansas (4/9/20) (Executive Order by Governor; extended through 9/15/20)
Louisiana (3/26/20) (Proclamation by Governor)
Maine (4/8/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
Maryland (3/30/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
  - Secretary of State Temporary Guidelines
Massachusetts (4/27/20) (Law authorizing remote notarization during emergency)
Mississippi (4/6/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
  - Secretary of State Guidance
Missouri (4/6/20) (Executive Order by Governor) (extended through 12/30/20)
New Hampshire (3/23/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
New Jersey (4/14/20) (Law authorizing remote notarization during emergency)
New Mexico (3/30/30) (Executive Order by Governor)
New York (3/19/20) (Executive Order by Governor; extended through 7/6/20)
  - Secretary of State Guidance 
North Carolina (5/4/20) (Law authorizing remote notarization through 8/1/20)
Oregon (6/30/20)(Law authorizing remote notarization through 6/30/21)
Pennsylvania(4/20/20) (Law authorizing remote notarization)
Rhode Island (4/3/20) (Authorized by Governor & Secretary of State)
  - Secretary of State Temporary Guidance and Updated Standards of Conduct
Washington (3/27/20) (Proclamation by Governor; extended until 7/1/20)
West Virginia (3/25/20) (Executive Order by Governor)
- Secretary of State Emergency Rule
Wyoming (3/24/20) (Emergency Guidance by Secretary of State)

1 For signing/witnessing of wills 
2 For attorney, title agents (or notaries under their supervision) and notaries employed by financial institutions
3 For licensed attorneys or notaries under supervision of an attorney
4 For licensed attorneys

News/Alerts

Colorado: Secretary of State Jena Griswold Applauds Signing of Remote Notary Legislation into Law
Illinois: Jesse White Allows Notaries to Perform Duties Remotely Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
Iowa: Remote notarization now in effect in Iowa after Governor Reynolds issues emergency waiver
Kentucky: Secretary of State Adams Confirms Ability of Notaries to Use Video Conference
Michigan: Governor Whitmer Signs Executive Order Removing Barriers to Remote Transactions and Estate Planning  
Missouri: Governor Parson Signs Executive Order 20-08 Regarding Notary Public in Response to COVID-19
Mississippi: State Officials Waive In-Person Requirement for Notarization of Documents
Nebraska: Finding new ways to help Nebraska’s Business (remote notarization)
New York: Electronic Notarization Alert
North Carolina: NC Secretary of State’s Emergency Video Notarization Proposal Signed Into Law by Governor Cooper 
Oregon: Remote Online Notarization Now Legal in Oregon
Rhode Island: Secretary Gorbea Announces Remote Online Notarization To Enable Business to Continue During COVID-19 Emergency
Texas: Governor Abbott Temporarily Suspends Certain Statutes To Allow For Appearance Before Notary Public Via Videoconference
West Virginia: Warner Issues Emergency Rule Establishing Electronic Notarization Processes in Lieu of In-Person Notary Requirements
Wisconsin: DFI Issues Emergency Guidance on Remote Notarization
Wyoming: Secretary of State Issues Guidance on Temporary Online Notary Services 

Resources

NASS Notary Public Administrators (NPA) Section
NNA Model Electronic Notarization Act  (2010)
MBA/ALTA Model Legislation for Remote Online Notarization
ULC Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2018)

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