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The Rise Of Online Notarization And Remote Witnessing As Legal Services: Implications For The Real Property And Probate Bars

Timothy Reiniger, Renée Hunter & John T. Rogers, Jr.
Timothy Reiniger, Renée Hunter and John T. Rogers, Jr.

Timothy Reiniger, Renée Hunter and John T. Rogers, Jr.

Timothy Reiniger is an attorney and Director of Reiniger, LLC; Renée Hunter is General Counsel of Notarize, Inc., and John T. Rogers, Jr., is the owner of Rogers Trust Law in Los Angeles, CA

Authors’ Synopsis: Virginia’s Electronic Notaries Act of 2011 has provided the legal framework for the growing national adoption of “online notarization”—electronic notarization by means of webcam or audio-video teleconference technology—wherein a signer who is located anywhere in the world can lawfully “appear” online before a notary public who is physically located in the state of commissioning. Using this legal service, a signer may remotely invoke the personal jurisdiction of a notary. And, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have also provided a parallel authorization for signers to remotely invoke the ability of individuals to serve as document witnesses.

The global move toward reliance on electronic signatures and records has driven the need for strategic information governance to establish reliable approaches for proving attribution of electronic signatures and legal identities. And, for those legal use cases, such as probate documents, that do not permit electronic signatures and records, the online notary’s subject matter jurisdiction still encompasses ink-signed and sealed paper documents. Nevertheless, online notarization, as a legal service, gives notaries an enhanced ability to prove the authenticity of electronic signatures and identification credentials.

I. Introduction

A result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a heightened global interest in the online delivery of legal services. The online notarial act, as a legal service, is legally both portable and durable. It can be performed for any signer across virtually any type of document and transaction; and once completed, it is valid anywhere and remains valid across time, no matter where the signer moves, where the document is taken, or whether the notarization is performed by audio-visual means.

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