5 Common Questions About Remote Online Notarization

For centuries, notaries have served a critical role in ensuring the proper execution of legal documents and minimizing fraud. The notarial act has traditionally been performed in-person and on paper, and typically requires the notary to verify the signer’s identity, witness the document being signed and affix their notarial seal. In addition, the notary is required to record the transaction in a journal in order to ensure a proper evidentiary record..

But the recent advent of modern digital services, including cost-effective, secure audio-visual and e-signature technologies, is driving a revolution in the world of notarization.

It’s understandable that notaries have questions about the validity, security and benefits of electronic notarization, and specifically remote online notarization (RON), a trusted and convenient method that is rapidly gaining approval and acceptance nationwide. In this article, we answer some of the most common questions and concerns about this transformative new method of notarization.

5 Common Questions About RON

1. What is remote online notarization (RON)?

At a high-level, RON is the use of electronic signature-related technologies—such as identity verification, fraud-evident encryption technology and digital audit trails—in conjunction with industry standard audio-visual technology. These technologies enable notaries to notarize documents securely and efficiently while also saving time and travel for the parties involved. Instead of meeting in a physical location to sign a paper document, the notary and the signers can conduct notarial acts on their own devices from multiple locations.

2. Is RON secure?

Yes. In fact, a RON act is more secure than a traditional in-person notarization. The enhanced security used in a RON transaction relies upon electronic signature technologies that have been consistently and securely used for nearly two decades. Such technologies, like tamper-evident sealing of electronically signed and notarized documents, allow for parties to determine later whether the document has been altered.

Further, RON relies upon electronic signature technologies to generate a digital audit trail called a journal. It also relies on industry-standard audio-visual technology to record and document the notarization session, protecting both the notary and signer by helping to ensure neither party is participating under duress. The recording also complements the journal record, helping to ensure the auditability of the RON session.

3. Is RON legally recognized?

RON is rapidly gaining acceptance as a valid form of notarization in a number of US states.. Just as electronic signature standards have changed over time with the emergence of new technologies, standards governing notarization are continually evolving. Across the U.S., RON is gaining traction as a convenient and secure way to notarize documents.. The majority of states have enacted some form of temporary or permanent RON authorization, and bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both houses of Congress that would authorize notaries nationwide to perform remote online notarization.

Currently, over 35 states have passed permanent laws that allow for notarization using RON. 

However, these laws are nuanced and vary from state to state, so we recommend becoming familiar with the specific requirements of the jurisdictions in which you do business, and consulting with local legal counsel as necessary.

4. Is RON recognized as a legitimate alternative to in-person notarization?

As RON legislation is passed in a growing number of U.S. states, the method has gained acceptance as a valid form of notarization.

The legal foundation for enabling notarization through e-signature was first established with the approval of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) for adoption by states beginning in 1999. The Act provides that, in connection with most consumer and commercial transactions, e-signatures and electronic records cannot be denied legal effect solely because they are in electronic form. This law was followed by passage in Congress of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) in 2000, which grants e-signatures and records the same legal effect as handwritten signatures and paper documents for most consumer and commercial transactions, and permits a notary to sign electronically.

UETA and ESIGN together have enabled broad industry acceptance and fostered technological innovation in notarization. They laid the foundation for in-person electronic notarization (IPEN), an earlier method which involves a notary performing an electronic notarization while physically present with the signer(s). RON represents the next phase of this evolution of law and technology, as it utilizes similar e-signature technologies and principles to enable easier, more secure and more flexible notarization.

5. What types of documents can I notarize using RON?

As acceptance of RON grows, a wide range of common documents and agreements can be notarized using the secure and time-saving technology.

For example, in the financial services and insurance industries, common documents requiring notarization include beneficiary change forms, retirement distribution forms, trust agreements and auto title transfers.

Within legal services, documents such as affidavits and motions, power of attorney (POA) forms, and deeds for the transfer of real property can all be notarized using RON.

State and local governments also require certain forms to be notarized, such as quitclaim deeds, which are needed for the transfer of public or private property, and child custody agreements. RON is a great alternative to in-person notarization for these needs.

These are just a few industry-specific examples. RON can be used in many other scenarios, including real estate transactions, rental and lease agreements, internal corporate transactions and HR documentation.

RON has benefits beyond in-person notarization

Change is hard, and it can seem like a heavy lift to deviate from the tried and true ways of doing business, whether that means commuting to an office five days a week, or conducting all notarizations in person. But stepping out of your comfort zone can pay big dividends , and RON is no exception. Consider these unique benefits of remote online notarization:

  • Do business faster and more efficiently: With RON, notaries don’t need to gather in the same physical location as signers to provide notarial services. And the sharing of documents digitally means that transactions can occur in seconds, rather than hours or days. RON saves you time and money by digitizing your notarial processes and accelerating the speed of business.
  • Enable a convenient customer experience: Delight your customers with a convenient, intuitive experience that saves them the time and hassle of meeting in-person. Meet your notary clients where they are, on their preferred device, at a mutually convenient time. By removing the barrier of traveling to an in-person meeting place, RON makes notarization more accessible to people who lack adequate transportation, live in remote areas, have non-traditional work schedules, or have health issues that confine them to their home.
  • Mitigate risk and reduce fraud: The cornerstone of any notarial act is verifying a person’s identity. Compared to a traditional in-person notarization, RON can help reduce fraud by better authenticating a person’s identity. RON does this by utilizing well-established identity proofing technologies, which are regularly used by those who rely on electronic signatures for their digital transactions.
  • Serve more clients and grow your notary business: With RON, the opportunities for growing your notarization practice are virtually limitless. In accordance with state laws, – performing secure, confidential face-to-face notarization over live video, using electronic signature and digital recordkeeping technology – is now practical. This means you can serve the needs of your notary clients regardless of geographic boundaries.

Docusign Notary provides notaries public with the digital tools you need to securely conduct RON acts. It’s built on Docusign eSignature, making it easy for you to send, sign and notarize agreements, all within Docusign. Learn more about how Notary can help you do business faster, create more convenient signer experiences and mitigate risk.