Notarization is one of the few things that have remained unchanged in the past few centuries. Yet the passing of bills in several states is about to propel it into the digital age with the use of webcam notarization rather than in person notarization which could impact the future of process service and affidavits.
Each year hundreds of millions of documents in the US are notarized including wills, citizenship forms, mortgages and affidavits. To help facilitate the process, Virginia became the first to create a remote notarization law in 2012 with Texas following in their footsteps.
Today there are several sites and apps that allow for remote notaries including NotaryCam, Safedocs and DocVerify. However this type of notarization will only be accepted within Virginia and Texas even though anyone in any state can utilize the services.
How it works
The use of webcam notaries is pretty straightforward. A document is uploaded, you connect with the notary by video chat, verify your identity and the notary witnesses you signing your name on the screen with your mouse or finger. Then the notary adds their signature and electronic seal or stamp.
The security goes a little further than the notary just asking you to hold up your ID card though. Usually the ID is run through a third-party system and the notary will ask some questions similar to the ones you get when trying to open up a line of credit such as “Have you ever lived on Littleton Road” or “Do you have a line of credit with DGR”?
Generally both the audio and video of the transaction is saved to a third party provider in compliance with the requirements of retention rules.
Pros and cons
There are over 4 million notaries in the US and they’re all extremely divided. On one hand, this helps streamline a process many consider arduous and bring it into the digital age. On the other, some are concerned there is more opportunity for coercion as one could be pressured by someone outside of the camera range.
Webcam notarization generally involves saving the audio and video , which would help to provide accountability as to the actual events of a given notarization.
Impact on process service and the legal community
Currently in New Jersey process servers are required to notarize affidavits of service. Being able to notarize via webcam would expedite the process of getting affidavits to a law firm. With the implementation of e-filing in the NJ court, this would enable affidavits to be filed more quickly, helping to streamline case timelines.
Not every state requires notarization of affidavits for service of process, so the introduction of webcams wouldn’t stand to expedite the affidavit return process across the nation. For the states where it applies however, it could save a process server time for having to go to a physical notary depending on how efficient the webcam notarization process is.
The future of webcam notarization
Just this year alone nine states considered webcam notarization. Four states are still considering their proposals (Minnesota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania) while five states didn’t go forward with the proposals (Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri).
So far digitally notarized documents have been considered valid across state lines so as this becomes more common and widely known, it’s quite plausible more states will become open to passing bills related to webcam notarization. Until then, there’s always the in-person notary process that’s been around for centuries.