In recent months, you may have seen articles discussing online notarization laws and technology splashing headlines. Online notary services have risen in popularity, especially during the pandemic. Because this is so new, however, you may be concerned over the legality of using an online notarization service. Well, look no further! We have the answer for you. In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know, including whether or not it’s legal, how to find a notary online, and how to execute online notarization for your estate planning documents.
Is an Online Notary Legal?
The short answer is yes, using an online notary is legal.
Legalization of online notaries began in 2011 when the Commonwealth of Virginia passed Senate Bill 827 and House Bill 2318. These laws made it legal for Virginia notaries to provide online notarizations. Individuals in all 50 states would be able to receive these services using live video calls.
According to global law firm DLA Piper, there are currently 34 states that have legalized online notary services. It’s important to note that the coronavirus disease served as an impetus that recently sped up this legalization process in the U.S. In the face of lockdowns, the nation’s lawmakers quickly realized the need for legitimizing online and remote processes.
For example, in May 2021, the Senate passed the SECURE Notarization Act, which addressed minimum standards for online notarizations impacting interstate business. If this current bill becomes permanent law, it would authorize every notary in the US to provide online notarization services. For now, however, the legality is being determined on a state-by-state-basis.
This means that you must make sure that using an online notary is legal and recognized in the state in which you live. Wondering if you live in a state that allows online notarization? Keep reading to find out in the next section.
What States Allow Electronic Notaries?
The SECURE Notarization Act has permitted federal agencies to allow online notarization on a case-by-case basis, in the face of emergencies. Until the act is made permanent via federal law, the legalization of online notary services is determined on a state-by-state basis.
Virginia was the first state to allow electronic notaries in 2011. Today, 34 states now permanently allow the use of an online notary via a Remote Online Notarization (RON) law. More are expected to follow suit in the coming years.
Below is the current list of states that now allow the use of an online notary:
Note that notary services are not complementary, and there are associated fees that you must pay in return for services. These fees vary from state to state. To find out how much a notary online costs in your state, visit our notary fees guide.
How Do I Notarize Online?
Notarizing documents online is much more convenient than visiting a notary in person. There are a variety of online notarization services available, each of which offer different products and services. However, they mostly operate on the same principles and thus offer similar processes.
First and foremost, you need a computer, tablet or mobile device and a stable internet connection. The virtual live notary will need to connect with you using audio-video modalities, so make sure that your device has a properly working web camera and microphone capabilities as well.
Once you choose your online notary service, they will prompt you through different steps of the process of getting your document notarized. In general, you’ll upload the document in question, and the online notary will verify your identity. Once your identity has been confirmed, the notary will guide you through the notarization process.
Below are some steps to help you prepare for your first online notarization:
Gather your documents to be notarized.
Prepare your valid state or government-issued ID to provide your identity.
Upload your documents to be notarized into your selected online notarization platform.
Connect with your online notary.
Discuss your document with your live notary.
Complete the live online notary process using video conferencing technology.
Secure access to your digitally stamped document.
You may have noticed how this process does not differ too much from the traditional, in-person notarization process. The basic principles of verifying your identity, discussing and signing your document in the presence of the notary, and receiving a notary stamp remain the same. The use of video call technology, plus the use of digital signatures and stamps, make it possible for you to get your documents notarized online.
What is the Best Online Notary Service?
During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, many of us realized how critical it is to have our ducks in a row when it comes to emergency preparedness. Some of us experienced the harsh reality of falling ill and being stuck on a hospital bed without any means of communicating with the outside world. Others experienced wanting to support such a person without having the legal means to do so.
These harsh realities were a wakeup call not just to individuals, but also to businesses and governments. Households, economies and governments cannot run properly without adapting to current environments. Today, our environment is highly technological. These lockdowns showed us how critical it is to modernize outdated processes by bringing them online. That way, we can continue operating in a seamless, legitimate manner even if we are sheltering in place.
Estate planning is no exception. At Trust & Will, we experienced an influx of new customers who realized how important it was to have an estate plan in place. Through our online services, they were able to set up their Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney from the safety of their homes.
In the past, the onus was still on the individual to get their documents notarized in-person. Thanks to the recent legalization of online notarization in many states, we’re now able to provide estate planning services that can be fully executed online, from start-to-finish. In fact, Trust & Will was the source of the first-ever digital estate plan in the history of the United States. That means that you can now create your own digital estate plan from start to finish without even having to leave your couch. You just need to make sure that you live in one of the 34 states that have legalized the use of an online notary. Check out our online notary services, and to find out how you can create your digital estate plan today.
Even if this pandemic were to take another turn, you’d be all set and have peace of mind knowing that you and your family are protected.
In this guide, we’ve discussed how online notary services have been legalized in 34 states. This has made it possible for Americans to establish fully digital estate plans, from start to finish. If you don’t live in a state where online notarization isn’t legal, there’s hope. In the face of the pandemic, states have worked quickly to legalize online notary processes so we expect the list of states to continue growing in the near future. The federal government will also authorize the use of an online notary on a case-by-case basis. Not only has the digitization of legal and business processes made life more convenient for most Americans, it has proven critical in the face of emergencies.
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