Editor’s note: Amid the COVID-19 crisis, the NNA is receiving heavy call volume from Notaries asking about Remote Online Notarization. Please refer to this frequently updated article for guidance before calling. If you live in a state that has authorized the practice and has rules in place — or if your state has issued emergency authorization — then you may perform remote notarizations. If your state has not authorized RON — or has authorized it but has not put rules in place — then you are not authorized to perform remote notarizations. However, if you have a signer requesting it refer them to one of the numerous companies that are set to perform them. (see list below).
As more states pass laws authorizing remote online notarizations, the practice continues to raise questions among Notaries and signers alike. What is remote notarization? Where can it be performed? Who can request it? Can I perform it? What technology is needed?
Here are answers to the most common questions.
What is remote notarization?
With remote notarization, a signer personally appears before the Notary at the time of the notarization using audio-visual technology over the internet instead of being physically present in the same room. Remote online notarization is also called webcam notarization, online notarization or virtual notarization.
Is remote notarization the same as electronic notarization?
Many people confuse electronic notarization with remote notarization, believing they are the same. They are not.
Electronic notarization, or eNotarization, involves documents that are notarized in electronic form, and the Notary and document signer sign with an electronic signature. But all other elements of a traditional, paper notarization apply to electronic notarization, including the requirement for the signer to physically appear before the Notary.
The confusion arises from the fact that Webcam notarizations typically involve digital documents that are signed and notarized electronically. However, they go a step further in that the transaction is conducted online rather than in person.
What states allow remote notarization?
Currently, 23 states have passed remote notarization laws. Out of those states, 17 have laws that are in effect as of January 1, 2020. Currently, 14 of these states have fully implemented their remote notarization procedures, meaning the law has taken effect and Notaries are currently authorized to perform remote online notarizations in those states.
Virginia, fully implemented
Texas, fully implemented (Additional emergency ID rules for Notaries currently in place, see “COVID-19 UPDATE” above)
Nevada, fully implemented
Minnesota, fully implemented
Montana, fully implemented
Ohio, fully implemented
Tennessee, fully implemented
Florida, fully implemented (Additional COVID-19 emergency rules in place, see “COVID-19 UPDATE” above)
Idaho, fully implemented
Kentucky, fully implemented
Oklahoma, fully implemented
Michigan, fully implemented
Utah, accepting applications to perform remote notarizations, according to the Lt. Governor’s website
South Dakota, fully implemented but with limitations (see below)
North Dakota, fully implemented (see below for more details)
Indiana, pending full implementation
Vermont, pending full implementation
Effective October 1, 2019, Montana Notaries are permitted to perform remote notarizations for signers outside the state.
Indiana and Vermont’s online notarization laws took effect on July 1, 2019. However, these states may require additional time to implement remote notarization rules and technology. Notaries interested in performing remote notarizations in these states should contact their state Notary regulating agency for information when remote notarization procedures and services will be made fully available.
South Dakota currently limits remote notarizations to paper documents only and signers for remote notarizations may only be identified through the Notary’s personal knowledge.
North Dakota’s webcam notarization law took effect on August 1, 2019. North Dakota issued guidance for remote notarization in March 2020.
Will other states permit remote notarizations in the near future?
States that have enacted remote notarization laws that have not taken effect yet include:
- Wisconsin, effective May 1, 2020 (Currently permitting RON under special emergency rules, see “COVID-19 UPDATE” above)
- Arizona, effective July 1, 2020
- Iowa, effective July 1, 2020
- Maryland, effective October 1, 2020
- Nebraska, effective July 1, 2020
- Washington, effective October 1, 2020
How do I prepare for remote notarization?
If you live in a state that has authorized remote notarization, simply follow the requirements of that state.
To find out what your state requires, visit your Secretary of State’s website or check the NNA’s Notary Law database for details of each of the laws mentioned above. The NNA also will continue to publish information as the states put their remote notarization programs into effect.
What kind of technology will I need to perform remote notarizations?
Each state that authorizes remote notarizations may establish its own technology standards and requirements.
There are a number of technology companies that offer end-to-end remote notarization systems. They include:
In practical terms, signing up with one or more of these companies will provide the most online Notaries with the technology they need.
What training do I need to perform remote notarizations?
Currently, Florida, Nevada, and Ohio have training requirements for prospective online Notaries.
To learn how to use remote notarization technology, each online notarization company will provide training for their respective systems.
Will being a remote Notary increase my market value?
If you are a mobile Notary, adding services to your business offerings may increase your value, but it depends on the market and customers you serve.
How will clients know I am a remote Notary?
Some remote notarization system companies market their services directly to the public, so you don’t have to. A couple of companies also have apps in the Apple App Store and on Google Play. A person who needs to have a document remotely notarized downloads the app pays the fee and is connected to a remote Notary who can help them.
In these cases, companies function like signing services. Customers come to them for notarization, and they schedule a remote Notary through their system. Typically, when you sign up, they will ask you when you are available to perform remote notarizations. You’ll be paid a portion of the maximum fee for the remote notarization that the company collects from the signer through the app.
If you use a technology company that doesn’t market directly to the public, you will need to market yourself to potential clients just like you do today for paper notarizations.
Yes. Every profile has an “Additional Information” section where you can put other qualifications and services. Go ahead and list it there.
Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.
As s professional, you’ll need to become familiar with common documents before you start your career as a signing agent. The practice is the best way to gain confidence in presenting a loan document to borrowers.
Obviously, you will need a stack of practice loan documents. As you have probably learned, finding a set of sample loan documents is not easy. I will provide some links of sample loan documents however there is no promise these samples will be available for long.
Before an appointment, many-experienced notary signing agents put the documents in the order that they prefer to present them.
The specified order of the first seven documents below is the order that many signing agents find to be best for relieving borrower anxiety. They say that borrowers usually relax and everything falls into place if you present the first few documents as suggested. Other signing agents say that the order doesn’t matter; they can preside over signings no matter what order the documents are in. It is a personal preference.
It should be noted that some lenders and title companies will include instructions in packages regarding the order in which the documents must be presented. In such cases, you must follow those instructions.
Ready to get started?
Please note that there is a descriptive statement for each document after its title. Generally, the documents that require notarization will state “Notarize.” after the description.
Become familiar with every document in every loan package that you can get your hands on; introduce them by stating the title of the document, giving its brief description, and state after making the introduction, “Please sign here when you are ready.” If there is a notary certificate attached to the document, you must ask the borrower(s) to acknowledge, swear, or affirm, as appropriate before signing. Once it is signed by the borrowers, signing agents usually notarize the document and move to the next one. Some signing agents wait until the end of the signing and perform all notarizations at once. Because strong opinions exist on this topic, we will not comment on whether they must be notarized immediately after the document is signed or at the end of the package.
1-Settlement Statement – This document shows all the settlement charges involved in your loan. It is self-explanatory. Please take time to look over the numbers.
2-Notice of Right to Cancel – This document allows borrowers to cancel the loan within three days from today. Please note the date [point to the date]. In other words, you can sign today and change your mind if you are not happy with something that you read in the documents later tonight. That way, you will not feel pressured to read every single word of the documents during this appointment. The lender requests that you both sign three of these. I will keep one; you will each keep two signed copies. [Whether it is necessary for all three copies to be signed at the table is another issue that is hotly debated by notary signing agents. Please ask your hiring entity if you are unclear.]
3-Deed of Trust or Mortgage – This document is also called a “security instrument.” It gives the lender an interest in your property; it will be recorded in the public (or real estate) records. (Notarize.)
4-Promissory Note or Real Estate Note – The note states how much you have borrowed [point to it], the length of time that you have to pay it back [point to it], and the interest rate [point to it].
5-Initial Escrow Disclosure – This discusses your escrow account.
6-Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement – This explains all costs of your loan.
7-1st Payment Letter – This explains when your first payment is due.
As noted above, the order of presentation of the remaining documents do not matter.
Uniform Residential Application – This is the application that you filled out at the beginning of your loan. You are requested to sign it again to confirm that it is accurate.
APR & Finance Charge Summary — This explains the cost of your loan.
Itemization of Amount Financed Borrower(s) – This explains the amount financed.
Borrower(s) Acknowledgement of Receipt of Disclosures – This document says that you acknowledge receiving applicable disclosures.
Attorney Representation Notice – This document explains that the attorney who drew the documents does not work for you; he or she works for the lender.
Borrower Affidavit – Please review and state if you swear (or affirm) to the truthfulness of the contents of the document. (Notarize.)
Borrower’s Closing Affidavit Borrower – Please review and advise if you swear (or affirm) to the truthfulness of the contents of the document. (Notarize.)
Certification and Authorization to Release Information – This describes when the lender may have to release information about you, the borrower.
Document Correction Agreement – This says that you will work with the lender to provide any additional information or funds required, if any, to complete the loan package. (Notarize.)
Error & Omissions/Compliance Agreement – You will work with the lender to provide any additional information requested to complete the loan package. (Notarize.)
Limited Power of Attorney/Correction Agreement – This is another document that allows correction of the documents for clerical or scrivener’s errors. (Notarize.)
Name Affidavit – This document lists names that you have been known as. Please sign as stated by names that you have been known by. Do not sign by names that do not apply to you. If it does not apply to you, you may want to complete the blank with a couple of words that explain that. (Notarize.) [Note that whether or not a signature is required on this type of affidavit varies significantly.]
Notice of Assign, Sale or Transfer of Servicing Rights – You understand that this loan may be sold or assigned to a loan servicer.
Notice of No Oral Agreements – This says that there are no oral agreements between parties that are not documented in the loan documents.
Collateral Protection Insurance Notice – You understand that you must keep the property insured.
4506-T Cover Sheet – You agree that the lender may collect a copy of your tax return from the IRS.
Form 4506 — You agree that the lender may collect a copy of your tax return from the IRS.
Patriot Act Form – This relates to the identification of the borrowers. It is required.
Signature Affidavit – This document lists names that you have been known as. Please sign as stated by names that you have been known by. Do not sign by names that do not apply to you. If it does not apply to you, you may want to complete the blank with a couple of words that explain that. (Notarize.)
Below are documents that may be called “title documents.”
Marital Status Affidavit – This document requests that you swear to information about your marital history. (Notarize.)
Refinance Affidavit – In this document, you confirm information about the property related to your loan. (Notarize.)
Survey Affidavit – This document relates to facts about your current property survey. (Notarize.)
Affidavit of Debts and Liens – This document makes statements about liens that you may have on the property that relates to your loan. (Notarize.)
Homestead Affidavit – This says that you state this is your primary home, your homestead. (Notarize.)
TIP: Many documents may be duplicated by the lender and title company. Each may have their own forms that they want to be completed even though they seem just like one that has been completed already. Do not be surprised if there are various forms of several documents to be signed and don’t skip any because they seem like duplicates. Just collect signatures and notarize as requested.
Signing agent “script”
Most signing agents become so familiar with documents that, by their tenth signing, they have a patented script of their own, which they can recite easily. Don’t be concerned if it seems extremely difficult for the first few times. Download a set of documents and start working on your script today!
Borrowers have questions. Some have several and some have one or two. Learn where to find the answers. You can only answer a question that is in black and white in one of the documents. Point to the answer and say, “Does this answer your question?”
You can answer a question about when the first payment is due or how much the interest rate will be. You cannot answer, “Why am I being charged this much for a loan origination fee?” Call your hiring entity when a question of that naturally arises.
Completing notary certificates
Neatly print on your notary certificates. Check to make sure that every notary certificate has the correct venue (state and county) on it. The venue is where you are during the notarization.
If a document has a jurat and an acknowledgment attached to it, it is not up to you to decide that you will not complete one of them. Complete both.
Do not add a certificate to a document if one is not already attached to it. If your state will not allow the wording on a certificate, you may attach a certificate and complete.
Some companies ask for an extra notary certificate to be returned with the documents. Ignore that request. You cannot return a loose notary certificate for them to use on any other document.
Never backdate a notary certificate. You MUST date your certificate with the date on which you are completing the notarization.
Do not notarize the document if the party isn’t present!