Notarizing & Witnessing Legal Documents During COVID CrisisApril 6, 2020 | Category: Articles
Many common legal documents must be notarized or witnessed to be legally binding. For example, mortgage documents and financial powers of attorney must be notarized. Wills, on the other hand, require witnesses, as do the advance health care directives of many states. But how can you make a valid legal document in the time of the coronavirus pandemic?
How to Notarize Documents While Under Coronavirus Restrictions
To have a document notarized, you must physically appear before the notary public. You don’t always have to sign the document in front of the notary, but at the very least the notary must see you as you prove and acknowledge that you are the signer. In these times, states are reconsidering what it means to “physically appear,” frequently allowing notaries to do their work online.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some states passed laws and issued regulations allowing remote online notarization (RON) so that notaries could acknowledge documents without in-person meetings. Early adopters included Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Now, in response to the coronavirus crisis, many other states have fast-tracked laws to permit this process, and the federal government is considering a national law. A handful of states—so far including New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Iowa—have temporarily authorized online notarization because of the pandemic.
For a regularly updated map showing states that are allowing RON, see the website of the Mortgage Bankers Association. To get details on where your state stands and how to use online notarization, consult a local mortgage professional or estate planning lawyer or contact your secretary of state’s office, which is in charge of regulating notaries in most states.
By Shae Irving, J.D.