Document notarization is essential for numerous legal matters, including real estate closings, where notarized documents must be presented for recording in the land records office. Traditional notarization requires the notary to be in the same physical location as the document signer so that the notary can witness the signer’s signature.

In recent years, various states have adopted laws that permit a notary to notarize a document without being physically in the same room as the signer. In most cases, these laws require the notary to witness the document signature through audio-visual means. The social distancing protocols of the coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, have made the traditional notarization requirement of physical presence an unnecessary risk. As a result, states and the federal government are working to expand the availability of remote notarization.

Maryland

In furtherance of the social distancing protocol aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus, Maryland Governor Hogan’s Executive Order No. 20-03-30-04 allows remote notarization in Maryland for the period of the COVID-19 emergency. This means that a document may be notarized even if the notary and the signer are not physically in the same place. Pursuant to the Executive Order, a notary conducting a notarial act remotely must create and retain an audio-visual recording of the performance of the notarial act and the notary must indicate on the notary certification that the act was performed remotely. A notary intending to use the remote notarization procedures must notify the Maryland Office of the Secretary of State in advance, identify the communications technology vendor it will use, and confirm that such vendor satisfies the requirements of the Governor’s Executive Order. This Executive Order generally tracks the remote notarization legislation that was enacted in the last legislative session and was to take effect on October 1, 2020. The Remote Notary Notification form can be accessed here.

Virginia

Remote notarization has been permitted in the Commonwealth of Virginia for several years, so documents can continue to be notarized in Virginia electronically and through audio-video conferencing technology so as to accommodate social distancing protocols during the coronavirus epidemic. A link to a fact sheet regarding notaries in Virginia is here.

District of Columbia

Remote notarization is not currently permitted in the District of Columbia. However, as part of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) introduced Senate Bill 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 (the SECURE Act). The SECURE Act would authorize electronic and remote notarizations across the country. The SECURE Act has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

If you have questions regarding the notarization requirements in your jurisdiction, please let us know.


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