Individuals buying a home, adopting a child, completing estate planning documents such as wills and advanced health care directives, or completing any number of legal procedures may find themselves in need of a notary.
Access to notarization has changed in recent years as more states have embraced remote online notarization options, mostly in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Today, a majority of states allow online notarization on a permanent basis, while some still have temporary measures in place or have no allowances for online notarization.
“The concept of remote notarization is attractive because of its convenience. Physically having to go to a Notary represented an ‘inconvenience’ — although I would add it is necessary ‘friction’ to ensure the integrity of the notarial act,” Bill Anderson, vice president of government affairs at the National Notary Association, wrote in an email. “So, I am not surprised by the pace of enactment, especially as it comes on the heels of the temporary remote notarization authorizations issued by state governors and enacted as temporary legislation in some states during the pandemic. But, even with more states enacting permanent remote laws, it is important to point out that a person still must ‘appear’ before the Notary for a notarial act. It’s just that they are appearing remotely.”
Read on to learn more about notarized documents, the notary process and whether remote notary services are available in your state.
What Is a Notary?
A notary public is appointed by state governments to serve as an impartial witness to protect against fraud. These individuals act as gatekeepers during the signing of important documents, and they are required to follow specific rules in accordance with state laws and regulations. A notary must be impartial.
Notarization is an official process by which the parties of a transaction ensure a document is authentic and legitimate.
Notarization involves verifying a signer’s identity, their willingness to sign without duress or intimidation and their awareness of the document’s contents. Notarizations can also be called notarial acts. There are three common types of notarial acts:
— Acknowledgments: Signer declares the signature on the document is his or her own, made willingly, for documents such as real property deeds, powers of attorney and trusts.
— Jurats: Verifies paperwork is truthful, typically involving documents associated with criminal or civil justice systems.
— Certified copies: Includes certifying the copying or reproduction of certain papers.
How Does a Notary Work?
When getting a document notarized, you will notice that notaries follow a specific set of steps.
A notary will ask to see a current ID that has a photo, physical description and signature. A notary will also typically record the details of the notarization in a chronological journal of notarial acts.
If a document fails any of the criteria, the notary will refuse to validate the document. The process is complete when the notary affixes his or her signature and seal of office on a notarial certificate.
Where Can I Get a Document Notarized?
Documents can typically be notarized in these locations:
— Your bank.
— Financial planner’s office.
— Attorney’s office.
— Accountant’s office.
— Real estate firm.
— Local post office.
— Package delivery stores.
— Online or via an app such as Notarize.
This is just a place to start. You can also find a nearby notary with a quick online search for a notary public in your city or by asking colleagues and neighbors for a referral. There are also traveling notaries who will come to your location to witness your document signing.
What Should I Bring When Meeting With a Notary?
Bring the following when meeting with a notary:
— A completed document.
— Acceptable identification (drivers license, passport, etc).
— All other signers.
— Payment for notary services.
How Much Does a Notary Cost?
According to the National Notary Association, most states set a maximum amount notaries can charge for their services. These fees typically range from $2 to $10 for in-person services, while remote online notarization may be more costly, with most states charging $25.
Anderson says the higher cost associated with remote notarization is a premium consumers must pay for the sake of convenience.
“Not all consumers will want to pay this higher fee,” he wrote in an email. “In this regard, it is good that they can still elect to physically go to a Notary should they need to have a document notarized. Nobody can compel a person to have a remote notarization and neither can a Notary be compelled to provide them.”
See the full fee schedule by notary type and state here.
How Do Notarization Services Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
During the coronavirus pandemic, some states enacted temporary authorizations to permit remote online notarization in an effort to allow business to carry on while limiting the virus’ spread. Remote online notarization takes place when a signer appears before a notary using audio-visual technology such as a webcam instead of being physically present.
“In the case of remote (online) notarization, this provided a particularly timely way to notarize estate documents,” Anderson says. “Many executive orders were issued by governors. Some states passed emergency legislation to temporarily authorize notaries to perform notarization for these and other types of documents.”
Most of those temporary authorizations have expired or been replaced by permanent remote online notarization laws. Just two states, Massachusetts and Mississippi, continue to have only temporary authorizations in place.
Can I Get a Document Notarized on a Video Call?
In addition to the states listed above with temporary authorizations, residents of most states are able to engage in remote online notarization.
It’s important to note that remote online notarization is not the same as electronic notarization, though the two are often conflated. Electronic notarization occurs when a document is signed with an electronic signature, but all of the other elements of a traditional notarization still apply — including the requirement for a signer to be physically present before a notary.
“There’s this misconception that remote notarization is the same as electronic signing, but it’s not at all,” says Jennifer V. Abelaj, founder of the Jennifer V. Abelaj Law Firm in New York. “It’s pen to paper, watching someone on video sign their document,” she says. It requires the notary to observe the signing and the signer to scan or fax the physical document to the notary for his or her signature and stamp. “It is incredibly cumbersome to execute,” she adds.
For those needing remote options, the following 43 states have fully enacted permanent remote online notarization laws as of August 2022, according to the National Notary Association.
— New Hampshire.
— New Jersey.
— New Mexico.
— New York.
— North Carolina.
— North Dakota.
— Rhode Island.
— South Dakota.
— West Virginia.
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What Is a Notarized Document — and Where Can I Get Something Notarized? originally appeared on usnews.com
Update 08/16/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.