On January 1, 2020, Florida’s new law allowing for remote online notarization (also known as RON) took effect. Florida joined more than 20 other states that now allow for notarization of documents via electronic means. Notarial “ceremonies” where everyone had to be in the same physical room could now be conducted in virtual space - the “physical room” would become a virtual “room” where all participants appear via webcam. And no more paper to pass around the table! Documents become digital and can be printed later or simply stored on a computer.
You might be thinking that RON sounds pretty cool and pretty convenient...and it is…but it also changes a few things especially for the principal signer. In a nutshell, the law requires the signer to go through a more-extensive identity credentialing process to prove his/her identity.
How do you prove who you are if you are in virtual space? Every remote notary must use a third-party service provider in order to effectuate remote notarial services and this provider also handles the identity credentialing process. This process is typically accomplished by accessing the signer’s credit report to generate a series of multiple choice questions to which the signer should only know the answers. We’ve all had to answer these questions at one time or another, maybe for a loan application or to pull our own credit report. For example, “In 2008 you had a mortgage with which bank?” and you are given five different choices. In order for the service provider to access your credit report to generate the questions, you will have to provide your social security number. This is a change that some may find uncomfortable, at least at first. The credentialing process takes place prior to the actual ceremony in a secure online environment.
The witnesses can be in the same room as the principal signer, or, located elsewhere. Proper identification will still be necessary, and everyone will need to be able to see and hear each other during the signing. The notary is required to store the audio-video recording along with copies of the digital documents that are being executed. This can become especially important if there are future challenges to the validity of the signing ceremony.
Not every notary in the State of Florida is permitted to perform RON services. There are certain requirements under Florida law that a notary must comply with before RON services can be provided; therefore, if you anticipate needing remote notary services for your net business transaction, allow yourself sufficient time to make sure you can find a proper notary.
RON services allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to execution of documents. It can be an ideal solution for many transactions where parties are spread out, schedules are particularly difficult to coordinate, or where COVID-19 contact is of particular concern. If you are in a business where you sign a lot of documents, don’t be surprised if your next one is remote signing…and remember to smile, you are on camera!
This article is for general information only and is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice or solicitation of a prospective client. It should not be relied on for legal advice in any particular factual circumstance.