Notarizing Documents Remotely
On April 14, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Assembly Bill 3903 into law. The text of the Bill may be reached by clicking here: https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2020/Bills/A4000/3903_R1.PDF The new law provides for notarizing documents remotely during the public health emergency and state of emergency.
Among other things, notaries confirm from personal knowledge or from satisfactory evidence that the person appearing before them is the person whose true signature is on the document. In New Jersey and certain other states, lawyers may also acknowledge documents.
Although it is easy to become a New Jersey notary. Acknowledging documents and performing the other duties of a notary is serious business. In his article Signed, Sealed, Delivered…Disbarred – Notarial Misconduct by Attorneys, available by clicking here: https://repository.jmls.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1644&context=lawreview Christopher B. Young surveyed improper notary practices by attorneys and the sanctions that followed such activity. 31 J. Marshall L. Rev.1085 (1998). In especially egregious cases attorney discipline has been severe.
Mr. Young’s article, highlights instances where lawyers attempted to defend themselves by claiming that it was common practice for attorneys to have notaries notarize clients’ signatures without the client being present, such arguments were rejected. A quick review of New Jersey Attorney Disciplinary Decisions reveals that the New Jersey Supreme Court has reprimanded at least two New Jersey attorneys for execution of improper acknowledgments.
The above being said, notary duties must be taken seriously and the new law, in sum provides:
During the public health emergency, except with respect to the exceptions in the law, notaries may take acknowledgements remotely via communication technology that allows the individuals to communicate with each other via sight and sound if:
- The notary has (a) personal knowledge of the identity of the person appearing, (b) has evidence by oath via a credible witness also appearing before the notary or (c) has obtained satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remote-located individual by using at least two different types of required identity proofing and
- The notary is reasonably able to confirm that the document before the notary is the same document on which the remotely located person executed a signature and
- The notary creates and maintains for ten years an audio-visual recording of the performance of the actions required.
Further, the acknowledgement shall state that the document was notarized using communication technology. Consult your lawyer for details. This law helps during the crisis, but the process must be followed.