During this pandemic, many clients are wondering what accommodations are being made for the notarization of important documents such as real estate records, bonds, releases and indemnity agreements.
California law requires that certain documents, such as powers of attorney, or property deeds, be notarized in order to be valid. Given the current “Shelter in Place” orders and best practice recommendations on social distancing, the question becomes how can important documents get notarized in a COVID-19 world?
Although many other states have enacted online notarization legislation, or emergency regulations during the COVID-19 Pandemic, California law currently does not permit remote online notarizations (RON). Legislative efforts to create remote online notarization in California have recently failed. A.B. 199 (Calderon)- California Online Notary Act of 2019 (died).
Thus, current California law does not provide the authority for California notaries to perform notarizations remotely. The personal appearance of the document signer is required before the notary public. However, people who wish to have their documents notarized can utilize a mobile California notary. The California Secretary of State considers notaries to be an “essential service” and are exempted from Shelter in Place orders.
Likewise, while remote online notarizations are currently prohibited in California, you can utilize an out of state RON service, if needed. Those wishing to have their documents notarized remotely can obtain notarial services in another state that currently provides remote online notarization. A notarization taken in another state is sufficient and legally binding in California if it is taken in accordance with the law of the state in which the notarization is made. Civil Code §1189(b).
Therefore, we are recommending that clients needing notarial service for their documents utilize a mobile notary. If that is impractical, or impossible, an out of state remote online notary will suffice.
It remains to be seen whether, post COVID-19, there will be a renewed legislative interest in remote online notarizations in California as has occurred in other States.
Below is a current map reflecting the status of remote online notarizations as of April 30th, courtesy of the National Notary Association. For more information on alternative options for notarizations and specific notarization requirements please contact Principal Attorney Michael Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.