The following article on remote online notarization is authored by Susan V. Reynolds, Esq., President of De Novo Attorney Services, a Baltimore-based business focusing on providing service of process resources to attorneys. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. The Law Entrepreneur is very grateful and appreciative of Susan’s contribution both here and to the legal community.
By: Susan V. Reynolds, Esq., July 15, 2021
The following is a general description of remote online notarization. Please note that RON procedures may vary depending on state laws, and not all states permit Notaries to perform remote online notarizations.
Remote online notarization, or RON, is the newest technology that affects almost every industry. As with anything new, wrapping your head around the process can be daunting and it may even deter you from taking the necessary steps to learning and offering this much-needed technology to your clients. So let’s try to simplify it!
What is Remote Online Notarization?
The legal definition of Remote Online Notarization is the notarization of a signature using an approved platform that allows the Notary and the signer to appear before each other at the time of the notarization using secure audio-visual technology over the internet.
Simply put, Remote Online Notarization is the notarization of documents using video conferencing software similar to Zoom or Skype. The basic premise is that two individuals can meet via the internet and electronically sign and notarize a document.
A Brief History
RON began in 2011 when Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed a bill into law allowing Notaries in the state of Virginia to complete notarizations online for people around the world. Governor McDonnell had the foresight to know that this new technology was the future for the notarial process. Since then, nearly all states have adopted a version of RON legislation into law.
It’s has been a daunting process to adopt, but the world is not moving backward. Remote Online Notarization is here to stay. With advancements in technology occurring every day, it is only a matter of time before all industries adopt this form of notarization as the industry standard.
The benefits that come with the advancement and acceptance of RON are endless – from simply saving time to literally positioning your firm as a forerunner in technology.
Some other benefits are:
- Reduces processing time and paperwork
- Maximizes productivity
- Increases client satisfaction
- Provides competitive advantage
- Reduces overhead
- Disables and Senior accessible
- Eco friendly
- Preferred by digital-savvy Millennials
- Easy, safe, fast, and convenient
- Documents are available immediately
Across all platforms there are generally three steps that need to be taken in order to complete a RON:
1. Uploading documents to a platform website and requesting the notarization of a document;
2. Verifying the signer’s identity through 3rd party vendors in order to deter fraud;
3. Signing and notarizing the document.
Step 1: Document Upload
Step 2: Two-Part Identity Verification
Once the documents have been uploaded and a Notary requested you will receive an email with a PIN code to be used to verify the signer’s identity. This is a two-part process.
PART ONE: The first part will be for the signer to answer some questions about themselves that have been generated by 3rd party vendors.
This is called Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA). The signer will have two minutes to answer 4 out of 5 questions correctly. These questions may reference previous addresses where they may have resided, or the make and model of a car they owned, etc. Should the signer fail to answer 4 out of 5 questions correctly in the timeframe given, another set of questions will be generated and they will be given a second try. If they fail a second time, they will be locked out of the system for 24 hours and will have to start the process over again.
PART TWO: Once the signer has passed the KBA portion of the identity verification process, they will be prompted to upload or take a picture of the front and back of their valid government-issued ID. This can be an identification card bearing a photographic image of their face and signature. Examples of this are driver’s license or passport. Once they have submitted their ID it will be validated using a 3rd party vendor to determine its validity. This process can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to validate depending on the clarity of the pictures submitted. Avoid using pictures that have a glare or do not show the full identification card as they will not be accepted.
Step 3: Document signing and notarization
Once the identity verification process is complete, the signer will be connected to a Commissioned Online Notary to begin notarizing their documents. The Notary will witness as they electronically sign the document. Then the Notary signs and places their virtual notarial stamp on the document. Once complete, the signer will receive detailed instructions on how to access their notarized document online via email.
Selecting a Remote Online Notarization Provider
Now that you understand the basic definition, history, and process of RON you should be well equipped to take the next step of finding the best provider to fulfill your notarial needs. There are some very important things to take into consideration. Not all providers are created equal! Some have been in business longer than others but are actually software developers and lack the staff or skills to provide the much-needed customer service.
Here are some questions to ask potential providers:
Q. How many years have you been in business? It is a good practice to use a RON provider that is tried and trusted, rather than someone who is new to the game.
Q How many full-time Notaries are on staff? If you have a large volume of work, a provider with just a few Notaries on staff or a provider who is outsourcing notary work to independent contractors may not be the best option. You need a provider that has multiple notaries available any time of the day or night.
Q. Are they licensed? What are their insurance limits?
Q. Do they have backup systems? If their platform goes down for whatever reason, is there a backup or failsafe measure in place to complete the notarization?
Q. How long do they store the executed documents? Are the documents stored in compliance with state laws? The provider needs to be compliant with the state law in which the Notary is certified, NOT the state that the documents originated from.
Q. Who is the custodian of the documents, the Notary, or the provider? This is very important to know in instances where the Notary is no working for the provider and you need to gain access to the document or proof of notary.
Q. Can they notarize international citizens? In tourist and vacation areas especially, such as Florida, many signers may not be US citizens.
Q. Does an appointment need to be made to perform the notary or can the signer log on anytime?
Q. What is the procedure after the documents are notarized? If you need to get the document after it is notarized, are you going to rely on the signer to send you the executed document, or will the Notary send you a copy?
Q. Are witnesses provided if necessary? This can be extremely helpful in streamlining the process, especially if two or more witnesses are needed.
Q. What are their security protocols? Are they compliant with state laws?
As you can see from the information above, RON can provide countless benefits to your organization but you must be diligent in the initial process in order to set yourself up for success. So, if you want to be ahead of the curve, adopt this new technology now and provide your clients with the best, most up-to-date services available today.
Disclaimer: De Novo Attorney Services, Inc. is not a law firm. We and our notaries do not and cannot provide any kind of legal advice, opinion, or recommendation. We cannot advise you on whether your document may be electronically signed or whether your electronically signed and notarized document will be valid or accepted by your intended recipient. If you have any questions about the validity or acceptance of your document by the intended recipient check with them first. We encourage all of our clients to seek legal advice for any questions about your documents or the transactions they relate to.
Copyright 2021, De Novo Attorney Services, Inc. All rights reserved.