On April 27, 2020, Massachusetts enacted legislation allowing remote online notarization during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remote online notarization ("RON") is intended to spare all parties the requirement to meet in person for a notarization during the pandemic. This means wills, powers of attorney, deeds, and other documents that require signature in the presence of a notary public now can be executed in the video/audio presence of a notary public.
"An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19" allows people located in Massachusetts to use an audio/visual connection on their electronic devices to meet virtually with a Massachusetts notary public to sign paper documents. The parties will use a livestreaming platform such as Cisco Webex or Zoom for the meeting.
Massachusetts RON does not allow for electronic signing of documents. "Wet ink" signatures on paper documents are still required.
If you need a document notarized during the Massachusetts COVID-19 state of emergency, you have the option of an in-person notarization under pre-existing law or using the RON statute. The notarization under Massachusetts RON has special requirements, which will require pre-planning. These include:
The Massachusetts RON self-extinguishes three days after the expiration of the State of Emergency ordered by Governor Baker on March 10, 2020.
23 states have enacted a permanent "remote online notarization" law. These laws generally purport to allow a notary licensed in that state to notarize documents that are being signed by a person who is located in another state (or country). Several companies have sprung up to provide this service. There is no explicit guidance in Massachusetts as to the validity of a notarization of documents signed under these laws. However, if you are located within Massachusetts and thinking about hiring a RON service company that uses a notary from another state, it will be prudent to consult with your lawyer ahead of time.
There may soon be federal legislation allowing remote, electronic, cross-state notarization for notarizations that occur in or have an effect on interstate commerce. Senate Bill 3533, the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020, would authorize every notary in the United States to perform RON in connection with interstate transactions.