Remote vs Electronic Notarizations

As Bob Dylan sings, “The times they are a-changing.” Really, they’ve already changed. We live in a digital world. Aspects of technology and connectivity reach nearly every industry under the sun, including the work of a Notary Public. The impact of this change, however, is slow to make its way into the legal infrastructure that determines how a Notary Public operates. So how, exactly, does a Notary navigate which types of technologically advanced notarizations are acceptable? The current landscape offers two different options– remote notarization and electronic notarization. The broad answer to this question depends on the laws of the individual states. In California, only electronic notarizations or “e-notarizations” are legally acceptable.

California notaries cannot notarize for a signer remotely through a webcam service. The personal appearance of a document signer is still required. California Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, issued a public service announcement in 2016 making it clear that online notarizations are “invalid and illegal.” However, over 24 states allow remote notarizations so it seems like it’s only a matter of time.

With e-notarizations, the signer still appears before the notary, but rather than having physical documents signed, the work is done using a device and software dedicated to electronic notarizations. In this scenario, the signer signs her name on a signature pad or uses fonts that represent her signature.  A cryptosystem called “Public Key” is used to verify and secure the signature. The notary uses their electronic signature and notary seal to complete the notarization. Figuring out how to incorporate e-notarizations into your notary service is as simple as getting to know the e-notarization software that you purchase. You are not required to perform an electronic notarization if asked, however.

But, even though e-notarizations are allowed, not everyone accepts them. For example, documents going to the county clerk will not pass inspection unless an agreement is put in place beforehand. Certain documents are also found unacceptable for e-notarizations such as court pleadings and Power of Attorney documents.

 Still, these laws are not set in stone. The world will continue to adapt and we as Notary Publics must change along with it in order to provide the best service possible. The best way to stay updated is to frequent the Secretary of State’s website. His office will issue guidelines on how to proceed should remote notarizations receive state approval.