eNotarization, Why It’s Needed?

Notaries public provide an essential function to the public land records industry. Most documents are required by statute to be notarized in order to be accepted for recording. The practice of using a trusted third party to acknowledge or certify that certain formalities of document execution have taken place between individuals dates back to early civilization and has carried forward to modern times.

There are several important assurances that the notarial act adds to the signing of documents. These assurances are consistent, whether the notarial act occurs in the paper or electronic realm.

Independent witness. The notary, as an officer commissioned by the state, acts as an impartial witness to the signer’s intent.

Awareness. The notary assesses the signer’s awareness that they are about to sign a document that commits them to a certain obligation. (The assessment is a reasonable care assessment.)

Voluntary act. The notary evaluates whether the signer is voluntarily entering into the obligations created in the documents including whether the signer appears to be of sound mind at the time of notarization and understands the obligations to which they are committing themselves by signing the document.

Prima facie evidence The Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 902(8) establishes that properly acknowledged documents are self-authenticating and can be presented as evidence in a legal proceeding without additional corroboration. This “face-value" status provides the unconditional assurance that facilitates confidence in the transaction. Relying parties are able to accept a notarized document as authentic with a high degree of confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions (Our Top 5 FAQs)

1. What is electronic notarization?

An electronic notarization is an official act performed by a notary public using an electronic signature on an electronic document. Generally speaking, all other steps and procedures of notarization remain the same. The signer appears before the notary to request a notarization, and the notary identifies the signer, completes a notarial certificate and affixes the electronic notary signature and seal.

2.How does electronic notarization work?

Think of electronic notarization as achieving the same result using different tools. A commissioned notary simply uses technology to electronically sign the document, complete the certificate language, and apply his/her electronic seal (if required) under state laws or rules. All signatures on the electronic document will be applied using some device such as a keyboard, stylus, touchscreen, touchpad, or other similar input device.

3. What is an electronically-enabled notary public?

This is notary public who is authorized and prepared to notarize documents electronically using an electronic signature and (where required) seal. Some states require notaries to indicate their intention to notarize electronically by registering with the notary appointing authority. Some states issue an electronic notary commission in addition to a traditional notary commission. Typically, states’ electronically-enabled notaries follow the same statutes, rules and recommended practices applicable to paper-based notarial acts; their authority to notarize is simply extended to include electronic documents. Some states impose additional requirements for electronic notarization.

4. If a state (or county) has not yet adopted or is still transitioning into electronic recording, can the recorder accept for recording an electronically notarized document?

Any jurisdiction equipped to accept electronic filings can accept electronically notarized documents. A jurisdiction that is not equipped to accept electronic filings may or may not accept a paper copy of an electronically notarized document, depending on how they interpret their laws and regulations.

5. Who is likely to be interested in submitting electronically notarized documents to the recorder’s office?

Industries actively engaged in promoting the use of electronically notarized documents include:

  • Banks, credit unions and mortgage lenders
  • Title and escrow companies
  • Legal offices
  • Financial services
  • Construction companies

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