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The end of the notary as we know it

Technology for Lawyers

Published: March 3, 2017

Notary stamps are as old as time itself. Notaries date from at least the time of Shakespeare, if not before. But the stamp that we are so used to may be about to disappear.

Notaries can have many functions, but in their practical relationship with attorneys, they are primarily an impartial, official witness to the validity of a signature. All lawyers are notaries, and anybody can apply to become one. They are everywhere, especially along the back roads of southeastern Ohio.

But now, we are in the age of electronic signatures. The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), promulgated in 1999, standardized e-signatures.

E-Notarization has been an option since about 2006, when the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) promulgated standards for in-person notarization of electronic signatures, allowing states to adopt those standards if they chose to do so. All states currently accept some form of e-notarization in conformance with UETA. Montana and Virginia further allow remote e-notarization via a webcam. Virginia goes a step further and allows remote e-notarization from anywhere in the U.S.

The next development, recently outlined in a white paper by the National Notary Association (NNA) is, apparently, to universally allow remote electronic notarization. Remote e-notarization allows all signatories to sign and verify documents from wherever they are.

The white paper states that several large entities, from Freddie Mac to Quicken Loans, as well as the CFPB (which may not be around, but…) have expressed support for this process.

The white paper states higher security standards for personal identification than an in-person verification, requiring knowledge-based authentication (KBA) to verify the identity of the signatory party. You may have run into KBA if you lost a credit card, and the CSR asked you what kind of car you owned when you were 16. A KBA may ask as many as 30 of those kinds of questions, until the process is satisfied that the signatory is the correct person.

E-notarization will also be required to detail a complete paper and audio-visual trail of the transaction, as well as tracking to see if the doc was altered in any way.

Remote e-notarization is also being pitched as cheaper and easier than in-person notarization.

Pretty soon, you won’t ever have to actually be in the same room with anybody!

Tip o’ the hat to Law Technology Today for the story.