Remote Notarization as States Reopen

As states reopen in stages, we thought it would be a good time to update our 50-state chart on remote notarization.

In our original Alert, we noted that at the start of the shutdowns, some states already had remote notarization procedures in place; some states that didn’t have procedures quickly adopted stopgap measures to facilitate transactions during the crisis and others failed to address the issue.  As the pandemic progressed, many of these states ultimately adopted emergency statutes and orders, and others still did not take action.

Significantly, many of the emergency orders and measures expire upon the emergency ceasing or being declared “over” by the state.  This may be a different date from the lifting of stay at home orders, especially for states that reopen in stages.  After the temporary remote notarization orders expire, when and if they will be replaced or reinstated is an open question.  Some of the states were already far along in approving remote notarization before the pandemic hit; others were not.  It is also unclear whether the experience of the states in administering remote notarization during the pandemic will inform any future legislation.  While some emergency orders were modeled on existing proposals, others appear to have been put together quickly during the crisis.

The pandemic has had a profound impact on people’s actions and attitudes in a wide variety of ways.   Even as states determine that it is safe to reopen for business, some people still may not feel comfortable gathering around a closing table just to notarize documents, with or without masks.  For others, overcoming the inconvenience of being forced to make things work while staying at home and realizing that in a digital age it is possible to be productive without physical presence may in turn make physical presence before a notary the inconvenience to be avoided.

This area will continue to evolve, especially if COVID-19 forces further shutdowns in the future, and we plan to monitor the developments.