COVID forced all of us to rely on electronic communications more than ever before both in our personal and business lives. While newfound benefits have been realized, making these temporary electronic notarization measures a permanent practice in our legal system ultimately requires action by the government.
Initially, New York allowed notaries and certain other parties to remotely sign documents using audio-video technology during the pandemic by emergency executive order. That authorization ended on June 24, 2021. However, legislation was subsequently introduced to allow for electronic notarization permanently. This was signed by the Governor on December 22, 2021 and goes into effect on June 22, 2022.
The law allows notary publics to witness signatures remotely using audio-video technology. This is important as many law firms, real estate-related companies and other businesses rely on notarization in their work. Those needing notarial services are often times busy with other obligations making in-person notarizations difficult to schedule. In addition to addressing safety concerns, we realized early in the pandemic the newfound convenience associated with permitting electronic notarizations. While the health risks have now lessened, the new law will provide us with a process for coordinating all the parties to sign documents at the same time and place.
There is a six-month lag between passage of the law and its implementation. In the interim, the New York Secretary of State has been charged with and is presently working on establishing regulations for conducting electronic notarial services which will address issues such as authenticating a person’s identity, maintaining security and other procedures. Some of the known requirements in the law include the following:
- Notaries must register with the New York Secretary of State (in addition to maintaining their registration with the county in which they reside) to obtain an electronic signature that can be used in notarizing documents.
- The signing must be recorded and the notary must retain the recording for 10 years.
- The notary must be physically located in New York and must notarize a New York-based document. The other parties do not have to be in New York at the time of the signing.
- There must be a certification accompanying the notarized document that states the document was electronically notarized and provides the details of the time, place and manner of signing.
Importantly, the law applies not only to notarizing a document, but to any situation requiring that someone sign under oath. This includes acknowledgments, verification, and the witnessing of documents.