Remote Notarizations During Covid-19
Updated: May 8
Some States Are Allowing Remote Notarization as An Emergency Measure During the Covid-19 Pandemic
Most estate planning documents require a notarization to make it legal. In fact, most states require witnesses and a notary to help verify that the person is willingly signing these important documents. Even in states where there is no notarization requirement by law, for example in Massachusetts, a power of attorney does not have to be notarized, in practice Massachusetts powers of attorney are notarized because absent a notarization, most financial institutions will not accept it.
Although each state has its own rules for notaries, in general, for a document to be notarized, the person needs to appear before the notary. Then, the notary will verify the person’s identity and affirm that they are signing it freely and voluntarily. Next, the notary will witness the person’s signature by signing and sealing the document.
So what is to be done during the covid-19 pandemic when many have moved estate planning to the top of their “to do” list? How can users get their documents notarized? Some states have either passed through the legislature or by executive order emergency authority to allow for remote online notarization. This means that you and your witnesses and your notary can all be in your own location and through audio-video technology the notary can witness you and your witnesses signing the legal documents.
To date, these states have approved some form of online notarization:
…and the list is continuing to grow as other states consider approving similar orders.
In response to Covid-19, some sates have enacted emergency orders, which encompass estate planning documents. These states include:
BE WARNED – Some of these emergency orders allowing remote notarization are only temporary measures. We here at Gentreo hope that this crisis forces systemic change throughout the legal system. Many of the rules surrounding estate planning are antiquated and are unwieldy given our internet culture. Allowing for complete online notarization of estate planning documents would make it more convenient for all Americans to have the ability to protect their choices, their assets and their loved ones. Hopefully, these emergency orders will become permanent. In the meantime, the Uniform Law Commission has proposed a uniform electronic will legislation. So far Nevada and Indiana have an electronic will statute. Florida passed one too and it goes into effect July 1, 2020.
Remember even if you do not reside in a state that has granted emergency remote notarization, by taking pre-cautions, you can still safely have your estate planning documents notarized.