Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many Missourians are finding it difficult to carry on a modicum of “business as usual.” One of the many difficulties is the requirement that certain legal documents, including deeds, deeds of trust (mortgages), wills and powers of attorney, must be validated through personal appearance before a notary public (and in some cases witnesses) to meet certain requirements or to be effective. Even though most real estate documents will remain enforceable even in the absence of effective notarization, individuals should endeavor to notarize such documents to avoid potential litigation. However, applicable shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders have made it difficult, if not impossible, to have anything notarized in a safe, social-distancing-mindful way.
In light of these concerns, on April 6, 2020, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson issued Executive Order 20-08, which purports to suspend the requirement of personal appearance to have a document notarized. Instead, the order permits notarization of documents through a videoconference (FaceTime, Zoom, Skype and other such video chats), provided certain requirements are met.
Many people are already familiar with FaceTime and Skype and are growing more comfortable with Zoom as its popularity grows during the pandemic. The executive order itself does not specify any type of videoconference that must be used, but the secretary of state has issued some guidance, saying it must be a “live, interactive audio-visual communication between the [signer and] the notary, which allows for observation, direct interaction, and communication at the time of signing.”
With a little camera work on the part of the signer, this should be no problem. So long as the signer points the camera at the paper as they sign it, and at some point they show their face (and ID if the notary does not know the signer), then any of the video chat apps mentioned above (or whatever others you may choose to use) will suffice.
Requirements for remote notarization
The executive order also makes clear that it will only apply if certain requirements are met. These requirements are summarized as follows:
- Both the signer and the notary must be physically located in Missouri.
- The notary language must include a reference that it was remotely notarized pursuant to the order.
- The notary must record the software used for the notarization (the video chat app).
- If the document is electronic, the notary must be a registered electronic notary. Check with your notary of choice if you are using this method.
- If the document is paper, the original signed copy must be sent to the notary within five business days after it is signed.
If you are uncertain about any of the above requirements, consult an attorney for interpretation of the order and the requirements for remote notarization. It should be noted that some have questioned the legality of this order, and it may be the subject of future litigation in contentious document signings. Individuals should consult with their attorneys prior to having any document remotely notarized, especially when signing any estate planning documents that require witnesses.
As of now, the order is in effect until May 15, 2020. If you anticipate executing your notary-required document after that date, plan to notarize without the use of a remote notary for the time being.
Read about Illinois’ remote notarization executive order here.