If you regularly have documents notarized as part of your practice, you’re probably like me. Under normal circumstances, you probably have the privilege of walking down the hall or perhaps driving down the street to your local notary. As a result, you rarely consider the legal requirements for a proper notarization and how to get something notarized under exigent circumstances. Yet, these are not normal circumstances. In many places, that is not currently an option given COVID-19.
Lawyers working in federal court have long relied on the ability to substitute declarations for notarized affidavits in federal proceedings. Under 28 U.S. Code § 1746, any affidavit requirement can be met by signing with the following declaration: “I declare (or certify, verify, or state) under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States of America that the foregoing is true and correct.” Per the statute, the words “under the laws of the United States of America” are only necessary if the declaration is signed outside of the United States.
Yet many processes still require notarization. Thankfully, most states also accept notarizations performed pursuant to the laws of other states. In California, for instance, you can have any document notarized by a notary from another state, so long as they follow the laws of that other state. California Civil Code 1189(b) (b) (“Any certificate of acknowledgment taken in another place shall be sufficient in this state if it is taken in accordance with the laws of the place where the acknowledgment is made.”).
As it turns out, given the restrictions on personal contact, a number of states have passed emergency measures allowing for remote notarization. The National Notary Association is tracking these measure and provides a quick reference map at its website. Other states have preexisting remote notarization services.
The combination of inter-state notarization and the emergency measures in almost half of the states means there are solutions available. For example, a California resident can have a notary who resides in Ohio notarize documents online through video conferencing under Ohio Revised Code 147.64. You simply need to provide the document to the notary and the notary will walk you through the entire process, much like they would do in person.
For firms and companies that have a broad U.S. footprint, such solutions can mean business as almost normal.