Notaries, who play critical roles in administering oaths, witnessing signings and authenticating documents, have always had to perform their jobs in person. But even before the spread of the coronavirus, legislation was in the works in Washington State to allow for remote notarization using online technology. That facility has become more sorely needed during the pandemic, since notarizing in person is made more difficult by stay-at-home orders and social distancing recommendations.
In response to the concerns of attorneys, notaries, realtors and others, Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation at the end of February that immediately allows notarizations to take place remotely rather than in person. The governor’s action accelerated the effective date of remote notary legislation that was originally scheduled for October 1, 2020.
This is welcome news for anyone engaged in estate planning or other legal transactions during the COVID-19 crisis, because it allows documents to be drafted, reviewed, signed and notarized without the need for groups of people to come together physically. Examples of documents that can now be remotely notarized include:
- Wills and trusts
- Powers of attorney
- Living wills
- Real estate contracts
- Prenuptial agreements
Notarial acts that formerly had to be done in person can now be done remotely if:
- A communication technology, such as WebEx or Zoom, is used to allow the notary to see and hear others remotely.
- The notary has personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remote individual.
- The notary can confirm that the document the notary is seeing is genuine.
- The notary can digitally record the signing and store the recording for at least 10 years.
As estate planning attorneys, we are pleased that Governor Inslee issued this proclamation. It relieves stress for clients, notaries and attorneys who are involved in transactions that had required in-person document signing. Remote notarization may be a small weapon in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, but as we all know, any measures that we can take to maintain social distance and flatten the curve are welcome.
If you are involved in estate planning or if you have general questions about Washington’s online notarization system, we welcome the chance to explain it. You can schedule a consultation with an attorney at Bottimore & Associates, P.L.L.C., by calling 253-272-5653 or contact us online. Our Tacoma office is using phone calls and videoconferencing for nearly all meetings during the current public health crisis.