Using Remote Online Notarization for Affidavits
An affidavit is a legal document used in a wide range of applications, from civil and criminal court cases to family law and corporate negotiations. Simply put, an affidavit is a sworn statement in writing. The signer of an affidavit (also known as the “affiant”) attests that the information in the subject document is true and correct to the best of their knowledge.
Affidavits come in several flavors. One of the most common is the affidavit of domicile, a document that establishes the legal residence of an individual who has passed away, often used in probate cases. Banks and insurance companies may also ask for an affidavit of domicile before releasing funds to a beneficiary.
Another common type of affidavit is the affidavit of marriage, which attests that two individuals are legally married to each other. This form can be used in place of a lost or misplaced marriage certificate, and is often needed for foreign visa applications and to confirm a beneficiary’s eligibility to be listed on an insurance policy or pension.
The affidavit of heirship serves as a way for individuals to prove to the court they are the rightful heir to a decedent’s estate, and is most commonly used when the deceased had no last will and testament.
Other common types of affidavits include the affidavit of death, the affidavit of residence, identity theft affidavits and the affidavit of name change.
General affidavits are all-purpose documents that can be used to produce a sworn statement for virtually any legal scenario. They are flexible enough to be tailored to the unique needs of any situation.
Due to their sensitive nature, affidavits in many jurisdictions require notarization.
Because affidavits are often used in time-sensitive legal or financial scenarios, the traditional in-person notarization process can be less than ideal. Fortunately, signers and legal professionals now have a more efficient method of notarization that can save time, money and hassle for all parties: remote online notarization (RON).
Using RON for affidavits
Generating affidavits through RON offers several clear advantages over traditional, in-person notarization. Using DocuSign Notary, notaries have all the tools they need to conduct RON transactions securely via an encrypted audio-visual session. With DocuSign Notary, organizations can:
- Provide a convenient experience for signers, as they can now remotely sign and notarize agreements without leaving their house, or having a notary visit their home.
- Mitigate risk with a robust audit trail featuring a tamper-evident Certificate of Completion, audio-visual recording and electronic journal.
- Establish confidence in signers’ identities with secure identity verification and knowledge-based authentication technologies.
Notary is built on DocuSign eSignature, which makes it easy for organizations to send, sign and notarize agreements within the platform they already use.
Just as importantly, Notary is available and meets the requirements for notarization in an expanding pool of supported states. This is particularly beneficial for large enterprise organizations that operate in multiple states.
Note: Laws governing RON are based on the state where the notary public is commissioned and may vary by jurisdiction. A notary public is required to follow the corresponding RON requirements as set forth by the Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor, or other state officials to ensure a notarial act is executed correctly.
DocuSign Notary provides notaries public with the digital tools they need to conduct remote online notarizations. To use DocuSign Notary, organizations must use notaries public that are commissioned in one of the supported states. For more information, reference the DocuSign Remote Online Notarization Legality Guide.
A common affidavit scenario—made simple with DocuSign Notary
Let’s look at one common affidavit use case, whereby the executor of an estate needs to remotely sign an affidavit of domicile to provide proof of the decedent’s last place of residence. In this case, the executor is serving as the affiant of the affidavit of domicile and attests that the decedent lived at their last known address of residence. The document will be notarized during the remote session.
With DocuSign Notary, the affiant can now sign the affidavit of domicile and have it notarized electronically and remotely—eliminating all the inconvenience of meeting in person and saving time for all parties. The estate attorney’s paralegal simply generates the affidavit and invites the affiant and notary public to a secure, interactive audio-visual session. From there, DocuSign Notary guides both parties through the identity verification, signing and notarization process. Within minutes, the notary public and affiant can meet, sign and notarize the document entirely remotely.
DocuSign Notary for affidavit notarization
Notary offers several industry-leading features and functions that ensure the RON experience is seamless and expedient for the signer, notary public and organization. These features include:
- Digital Certificates: DocuSign Notary allows notaries to use a Digital Certificate to apply a Digital Signature per certain state RON requirements.
- Electronic Notary Seal: For those states that require it, Notary allows notaries to upload their state-compliant seal image, a feature included with the platform. The notary can then apply their seal on the document during the signing session to meet compliance requirements. For detailed information on individual state requirements, review our RON Legality Guide.
- Audio-visual recording: An audio-visual recording is produced for each RON session and retained for 10 years, matching the longest state requirement for storage. This is an essential component of each RON session to help ensure the signer is not under duress or coerced, and that they are of sound mind when they sign the affidavit.
- Electronic notary journal: DocuSign Notary stores the electronic journal to maintain a robust audit trail and meet RON compliance requirements. DocuSign stores the journal for the lifetime of the notary’s account.
- Detailed audit trail: To maintain a robust audit trail, the electronic journal, audio-visual recording, signed affidavit form and Certificate of Completion are all securely saved after notarization.
- Robust authentication protocols: Notary meets the most stringent state-specific signer verification requirements through several user-friendly methods. These protocols include the use of two-factor authentication if the notary doesn’t know the signer personally. Another is a low-documentation, “known to me” option that can be used when the notary personally knows the signer.
- Centralized notary management: For organizations with multiple notaries on staff, DocuSign Notary ensures they can all be managed in one place within a single Administrative dashboard.
Add even more efficiency to RON with affidavit templates
Within DocuSign Notary, it’s easy and quick to create a general affidavit template that can be used in a wide range of affidavit use cases, helping to accelerate the RON process and reduce mistakes caused by human error. Just follow these four steps:
- Legal placeholder section: In your template, include a text field where approved legal language can be added based on the unique situation. Typically, general affidavits include a heading, where the nature of the affidavit, relevant court, case number, county and state are listed. Next, the affidavit should contain verbiage stating that the affiant swears to the facts listed in the affidavit as true and correct to the best of their knowledge. This is followed by individual paragraphs detailing each fact to be attested to by the affiant.
- Signature section: The template should include a signature section appended to the bottom of the document. By applying signing fields and Notary-specific tags, you can make it easy for the affiant to add their signature on the affidavit, attesting to the facts listed in the legal section. This is also where the notary will add their signature and electronic notary seal.
- Save and close your template: With Notary, it is easy to save your template in DocuSign eSignature for easy access for your next notarial session.
As with all legal documents, we recommend having an attorney review your affidavit template before first use.
Interested in learning more about RON? First, check out all the industry-leading features of DocuSign Notary in this informative video, then read this whitepaper to discover how e-signature laws and principles laid the foundation for the RON revolution.