In November of last year, I wrote about new laws that make it possible to have an electronic will. Statutes that authorize the use of electronic wills are now in effect in Arizona and a few other states. In my newsletter on this topic, I predicted that the idea wasn’t likely to catch on until the required electronic verification and storage facilities for electronic wills are in place. So far, that prediction has held. I still have not heard of anyone in Arizona who’s actually equipped to do electronic wills.
Electronic signing of some other kinds of documents, such as contracts, is another story. Electronic signatures have very quickly become common in certain circumstances. The situation where I have seen electronic signatures with increasing frequency is in real estate transactions. My impression is that electronic signatures are now the norm for all contract documents in residential real estate sales.
The signatures on residential real estate contract documents don’t have to be notarized, however. In the same way that electronic wills won’t really get off the ground until virtual platforms to facilitate them are in place, the use of e-signatures for documents that require notarization isn’t likely to take off until electronic notarization becomes widespread. That means that processes and platforms for a notary to electronically affix their notary seal to a document must be readily available.
The good news is that those processes and platforms are apparently on the way, and laws allowing their use are in place. Under Arizona law, virtual notarization can happen in two forms: electronic notarization and remote notarization.
Electronic notarization is essentially the electronic analog to traditional notarization. It’s a way for a notary to electronically notarize an electronically signed document. After the document signer has electronically signed the document, the notary electronically signs it and affixes an electronic notary seal. The interaction between the signer of the document and the notary cannot be virtual, however. The document signer must physically appear before the notary. The notary verifies the signer’s identity in the traditional ways, e.g. via identification such as a driver license or passport, or by being personally acquainted with the document signer.
Remote notarization, also referred to as remote online notarization, takes the virtual process one step further, as you might guess from the name. For a remote notarization, the document signer and the notary communicate via audio-visual technology. The document signer signs the document electronically, after which the notary signs electronically and affixes an electronic notary seal. There are rules that the notary must follow to verify the signer’s identity. The document is transmitted from the signer to the notary through a remote online notarization service provider, using a remote online notarization (RON) platform.
I don’t know any notaries that are using these virtual processes yet, but I’m pretty sure they are out there. Now that I know more about it, I’m going to look into getting set up for it myself.
Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions. He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,
Contact Attorney Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org or 520/ 322-5000
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