chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

GPSolo eReport

GPSolo eReport Article Archives

How Do I Notarize E-Signatures?

Wells Howard Anderson and Ashley Hallene


  • Variations on the new trend of notarizing e-signatures include in-person electronic notarization (IPEN), remote ink-signed notarization (RIN), and remote online notarization (RON).
  • Not all jurisdictions permit remote online notarization.
  • To ensure you do not lose any of the legal files that you have created throughout your career, you must back them up frequently and automatically via multiple methods.
How Do I Notarize E-Signatures?
vincevoigt via Getty Images

Jump to:

Welcome to the latest installment of our monthly Q&A column, where a panel of experts answers your questions about using technology in your law practice.

This month we answer readers’ questions about how to notarize e-signatures what is the best way to back up all the legal files you create over your career.

Q: How do I notarize e-signatures?

A: There are several variations of this new trend:

  1. In-person electronic notarization (IPEN). With in-person electronic notarization, both parties will sign and notarize the document electronically in the same room; as this is not a remote process, it varies little from familiar notarization, except it involves electronic signatures rather than ink.
  2. Remote ink-signed notarization (RIN). Although it does not technically involve an e-signature, this process is done over the Internet and so could be considered “electronic.” Here, the notary and the signer do not have to be in the same location. The signer signs a physical paper document while the notary observes via audiovisual technology (webcam, videoconference, etc.). The signer then mails the document to the notary, who authorizes it and sends it to the appropriate party.
  3. Remote Online Notarization (RON). This process involves both electronic signature and remote notarization. Here, a state-licensed notary notarizes a document using a combination of electronic signatures, identity verification, and audiovisual and electronic-notarial journal record keeping

Remote online notarization is the most common of these variations, so it will be discussed at length below:

Remote Online Notarization (RON)

  1. The signer contacts the notary or remote online notarization service provider to request a remote online notarization.
  2. The signer’s document is uploaded in an electronic format (typically a PDF) or sent directly to the notary so it can be signed and notarized. It may be uploaded to an online platform used to perform the notarization.
  3. The signer’s identity is then screened according to the requirements of the notary’s commissioning state. This can be done in a variety of ways, so make sure you know what is required for the state where the signer/notary is located. Methods include:
    1. answering questions based on the signer’s personal and credit history (KBA);
    2. verifying the signer’s identification documents online (credential analysis);
    3. remotely viewing the signer’s ID during the notarization; or
    4. other RON identification methods set by statute.
  4. During the remote online notarization, the notary and the signer communicate online using audiovisual technology—for example, via webcam.
  5. Once the signer’s identity has been verified and all other requirements for the notarization have been completed, both the signer and the notary must sign the document and the notary’s seal attached. For electronic documents, this requires electronic signatures and an electronic version of the notary’s seal.
  6. The notary will record all required information for the notary’s journal records. Usually, the notary must also retain an audio and video recording of the notarization session.
  7. Lastly, the remotely notarized document is returned to the signer.

Not all jurisdictions permit remote online notarization:

  • Permitted: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • Partially permitted or temporarily permitted: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  • Not Permitted: California, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C.

Service Providers

There are several online notary services providers you can check out and see if they fit your needs. For example, the subscription-based service DocuSign offers both DocuSign Notary and DocuSign eNotary. DocuSign Notary is a RON solution using audiovisual and identity proofing technologies. DocuSign eNotary is an in-person electronic notarization (IPEN) solution. DocuSign charges $10 per month for the Personal tier (single user, RON services only), $25 per month per user for the Standard tier (up to five users, both RON and IPEN services), and $40 per month per user for the Business Pro tier (up to five users, RON and IPEN services, plus additional features such as two-factor identification). Notarize offers a fee-based model for remote online notarization, charging $25 per notarization plus $10 per additional notary seal on a document. Notarize also has a subscription tier, Business Pro, that costs $99 per month per user (up to five users) plus $25 per notarization; the Business Pro tier also includes features such as identity verification. OneNotary also offers both fee-based and subscription-based models for remote online notarization. Its fee-based model charges $25 per notarization and $6 per additional notary seal. Its subscription-based models include the Standard tier ($57 per month, five free notarizations per month) and the Professional tier ($117 per month, ten free notarizations per month).

Techie: Ashley Hallene, JD, GPSolo eReport Editor-in-Chief, [email protected].

Q: I don’t want to lose the legal files I spend long hours creating throughout my career. How should I back them up?

A: The short answer: Back them up frequently and automatically with multiple methods. Don’t rely on yourself or a single system.

Computers fail. There is no way around that. Hard drives crash. Viruses penetrate defenses. Thieves, storms, fires, and other disasters eliminate files and backups in your office.

Your first defense should be a reliable offsite backup. If you rotate backup hard drives offsite, you have a number of advantages:

  • Protection against physical and technical disasters
  • Really fast recovery with the right software and hardware
  • Complete protection of files, settings, software, and Windows

But there are problems with rotating offsite backups.

First, in my experience, many small firms fail to rotate and test their backup drives consistently, day in and day out, year after year. Missing a single day can mean the disruptive loss of irreplaceable, valuable files.

Second, you stand to lose a day’s work or more if disaster strikes before your daily backup runs. Those current files may not be the most precious, but they are the ones you most likely want right now to get your work done.

That’s when you need an automatic, multiple-times-per-day, onsite backup. If there’s a fire, it will go up in smoke with everything else. But if you have server corruption, a drive failure, or an accidental deletion or file overwrite, it is great to have an accessible, frequent local backup.

Cloud backups can save the day by filling the gaps of other backup systems.

First, let’s eliminate the false fear about the supposed insecurity of “trusting my data to the cloud.” That fear would be legitimate if:

  1. You were to trust your data to an untrustworthy company.
  2. You relied exclusively on one company for offsite backup.

A reputable cloud backup company will give you the option to be the only person with the encryption key (password) to your backups. That option completely eliminates the risk that a wayward employee of the vendor will snoop around in your files.

Some people fear that modern encryption techniques “can be broken.” When you use a long-enough encryption key, not even the National Security Agency (NSA) can break into your encrypted backups.

As for the future, quantum computers promise to crack passwords of the lengths typically in use today. To be safe in the future, you can use an AES 256-bit encryption password of 44 alphanumeric characters. That means creating a 44-character password or phrase with numbers, uppercase, and lowercase letters.

Quantum computers of the future won’t be able to break a 44-character passphrase (256 bits of entropy), according to multiple sources.

But what if the cloud backup company suddenly fails? That’s why you don’t rely exclusively on one company. The best practice is to have two offsite backups. If one fails, you have the other.

Techie: Wells H. Anderson, JD, GPSolo eReport Contributing Technology Editor and CEO of SecureMyFirm, 952/922-1120,—we protect small firms from cyber threats with affordable, multiple layers of defense.

What’s YOUR question?

If you have a technology question, please forward it to Managing Editor Rob Salkin ([email protected]) at your earliest convenience. Our response team selects the questions for response and publication. Our regular response team includes Jeffrey Allen, Wells H. Anderson, Jordan L. Couch, Ashley Hallene, Al Harrison, and Patrick Palace. We publish submitted questions anonymously, just in case you do not want someone else to know you asked the question.

Please send in your questions today!