Remote Online Notarization: Will It Work for Your Business?
If you run any kind of business that requires contracts and other official documents, you probably use notary services regularly. How would you like a notary service that you can do entirely online from your home or office? Here’s what you need to know about remote online notarization.
Is Remote Online Notarization the Future?
Getting documents signed and notarized is essential to almost any business. Normally, you arrange a meeting with the signers, make an appointment with a notary and travel to the notary’s office to get this done.
In a remote online notarization (RON), you don’t have to travel anywhere. You, the signers and the notary “meet” online, verify identities and get the documents digitally signed and digitally notarized.
Why You Need Online Notarization
It’s not always easy or convenient to find a notary. You might live in a remote area or have physical limitations that make it hard to drive. You may work irregular hours. It can be especially hard to set up meetings during the altered reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many offices are closed and we’re required to maintain social distancing.
In these situations, remote online notarization is an excellent option.
Is It Legal?
More than 30 states have passed laws that permit the use of online notarization . Others allow online notarizations with certain restrictions. Several states have passed emergency measures allowing online notarization because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In some of these states, documents with online notarization carry the same official and legal weight as documents with traditional notarization.
The recent laws are gaining attention from legal organizations, notary groups and court reporters. Many court reporters are also notaries.
Who’s Using Remote Online Notarization?
As more people become aware of RON, interest is growing. It’s especially popular in industries like real estate, where clients typically sign and notarize enormous volumes of documents.
We’re Welcoming Technology
According to Steve Ozonian, president of the Williston Financial Group, online notarization will increase now that people are more comfortable conducting business online.
“This pandemic is also forcing the hand of consumers to become more adept at using online conferencing technology to communicate,” he wrote in Inman Direct. “We are becoming more comfortable using tools like Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams, and this is the time for these efficient resources to become permanent.“
Senators Kevin Kramer (R-N.D) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) have introduced legislation that would allow immediate nationwide use of RON in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (SECURE) would allow every notary in the United States to perform RONs, require tamper-proof technology in electronic notarization and provide fraud prevention through use of multifactor authentication.
The bill has the support of trade organizations like the American Land Title Association (“ALTA”) and Mortgage Bankers Association (“MBA”), who want a federal RON provision to be part of any COVID-19 stimulus.
How Does It Work?
During a remote online notarization, the notary and the signer first agree to “meet” digitally at a certain time and date. At the scheduled time, they meet in a virtual space where the notary verifies the signer’s identity, performs an authentication and then asks the signer to digitally sign the documents.
The notary uses a webcam to record the signing. After the signing is complete, the notary downloads a digital copy of their notary seal and notary certificate.
The notary sends the signed documents, the seal and the certificate to the signer. The webcam recording and digital journal entry stay in the notary’s records for the time prescribed by law.
Addressing Security Concerns
Many people agree that online notarization could be great for notaries and customers, but they worry about the safety of the process.
Is It Safe?
While many people have embraced online notarization, others are more cautious. Some notaries worry about being responsible for fraudulent identifications. California has not passed a RON law yet. Notaries in California have been vocal about opposing the idea.
Stringent Security Measures
Proponents note that RON laws in most states contain strict security measures.
- Only notaries with an existing commission in good standing can apply to be online notaries.
- States that allow online notarization require their notaries to use a state-approved, third-party authentication provider.
- Online notaries must use two layers of authentication.
“From my experience, a webcam notarization provides superior evidence of a signer’s identity, willingness and awareness to sign and the fact that they signed,” Timothy Reiniger, director of digital services at the Virginia law firm FutureLaw, said in an interview with Notary Bulletin.
Get Ready to Face the Future
Remote notarization is here to stay, and it will continue spreading to other states. If you’re interested in using a remote online notary for your next document signing, you can find one at an online notary platform. These platforms follow all state guidelines and use innovative security measures. They conduct assessments and background checks on all their registered notaries.
Are you a notary who wants to become an online notary? Sign up with a platform provider to get started. If your state has not passed a law permitting RON, you cannot legally perform remote notarizations.
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