On March 30th, Gov. Hogan passed an order authorizing remote notarizations in Maryland in during the State of Emergency caused by COVID-19. This was a response to Local Real Estate Agent Sherman Hardy’s Change.org petition titled Maryland Needs Electronic Closings for Real Estate During Coronavirus. Not only does this help real estate agents, investors, and buyers and sellers. It also helps attorneys such as myself that are creating documents that require notarization in order to be effective such as health care power attorneys for people affected by COVID-19.
Before reviewing the order authorizing remote notarizations in Maryland, I was under the impression that Notaries must just do what they normally do, just using Skype. But after reading the order, there are a few additional legal requirements for remote notarization in Maryland that Notaries and perhaps those being Notarized should be aware of. Here are the new requirements.
The Notary Must Notify The Secretary of State That They Intend To Perform Remote Closings
So the Secretary wants to keep track of the Notaries performing electronic notarizations. Notaries should notify the Secretary of state before performing any remote notarizations. In addition, they must let them know the technology they’ll be using, as in the hardware and software. For example I intend to use my MacBook Pro and Eyeson. Other hardware and software examples include an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, Skype, Zoom, etc. Whatever it is you’re using inform the Secretary.
The Communication Must Be Audio & Visual
In other words, the notary must be “live” with the other person. It can’t just be done using a phone. (But what if the signer is deaf or mute?).
The Act Must Be Recorded
The Notary must create (or direct another person to create) a recording. I think it will be best practice for Notaries that intend to enter the remote notarization business to create and keep the record of their signings themselves.
Notary Must Indicate That When They Perform Remote Notarizations
Notary must indicate on (1) the certificate of the notarial act and (2) in their notary journal that the act was performed not in the physical presence of a notary, but done using communication technology.
Notarial seals usually contain language that the person personally appeared before the notary. This language will need to be changed to indicate that it was done by remote notarization. In addition, Notaries must indicate in their journals that the signing was done remotely.
Remote Notarizations are Only Effective During The State of Emergency
Last point is, that these kind of notarizations are in effect until Hogan’s order is lifted. However, in the future I suspect that remote notarizations will become the new normal.