Remote Virtual Notarization Act for COVID-19 Emergency Enacted by Massachusetts Legislature
New Laws Allow Video-Conferencing Technology For Notarization of Legal Documents during COVID-19 Crisis
After what seemed like an eternity during this unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, the Legislature has finally passed a bill providing for the remote virtual notarization of legal documents through video-conferencing technology. The measure will be in place temporarily during Gov. Baker’s declared COVID-19 State of Emergency, and will dispense with the legal requirement for in-person notarizations of real estate, probate and other legal documents requiring a notary public stamp. After over a month of intense lobbying by attorneys and the banking industry, and several revisions to the original bill, the House and Senate finally agreed on a final language today. The measure now goes to Gov. Baker’s desk where he is expected to sign it shortly. This is great news for everyone in the real estate industry as the new law will allow attorneys, paralegals, buyers, and sellers to sign important legal documents safely in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis.
The new law, An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19, provides for a series of requirements and steps to effectuate a valid remote virtual notarization —
- Remote notarizations may be conducted through video-conferencing technology such as Zoom or FaceTime. No specific type of technology is spelled out, but we are hearing that title insurance companies and lenders will require real estate closing attorneys to use approved virtual notary software. Some may not however.
- All remote notarizations must take place with both the notary and the signatory within Massachusetts state lines. For example, a Massachusetts notary cannot notarize a document of a person signing in New York.
- The signatory must show the notary a government issued photographic form of identification (a state issued driver’s license is OK). Non-US citizens must show a valid passport or government I.D. A copy of the front and back of the I.D. must be sent to the notary which must be retained for 10 years.
- The notarization must otherwise be conducted in the usual manner over video-conference with the notary observing the actual signing of the legal document and taking the required affirmation, i.e., “this is your free act and deed.”
- The original notarized documents must then be sent back to the notary, and for real estate closings, a second video conference must be conducted where the signatory authenticates the signed documents.
- Once the above process is complete, the notary or attorney can stamp the documents as notarized, and must also complete and sign an affidavit attesting that all requirements have been met. The affidavit must be kept on file for 10 years.
- For real estate transactions and certain probate documents (will, trust nomination of guardian or conservator, durable power of attorney, health care proxy or caregiver authorization, only licensed attorneys (or a paralegal under their supervision) may conduct a remote notarization. For real estate closings, a second form of I.D. may be required.
The new law expires 3 days after Gov. Baker lifts the COVID-19 State of Emergency, at which time, only standard in-person notarizations will be allowed. The text of the bill is embedded below.