Remote Notarization in New Jersey is Here to Stay (But Not For Wills)
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached New Jersey in March of 2020, a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency were declared causing a flurry of emergency measures to be put in place by the State to allow necessary functions to continue. One such measure was the temporary authorization of remote notarization, whereby a notary public (“notary”) could validly acknowledge a signing over a live-streaming video service. The emergency measure was designed to expire upon the termination of the State of Emergency, however, legislation has been passed to permanently authorize the use of remote notarization.
Signed into law on July 22, 2021 and made effective as of October 22, 2021, Assembly Bill No. 4250, in addition to comprehensively overhauling the law governing Notaries, permanently allows notarizations of many documents to be conducted over live streaming video services and for the in-person notarization of electronic documents. However, it should be noted that the new law does not apply to the execution of Wills.
In New Jersey, prior to the emergency notarization measures put into place due to the pandemic, in order to validly notarize a document, a notary public was required to physically be in the presence of the person signing the document. Under the new law, a notary can effectuate a valid notarization using “communications technology” which is defined in the statue as any electronic device or process that allows a notary and a remotely located individual to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound and, when necessary, facilitates communication with a remotely located individual who may have a vision, hearing or speech impairment.
The new law provides that a notary public, or other individual authorized by law to perform a notarial act (such as a lawyer), located in the State of New Jersey may perform a remote notarization if:
1. The notary can verify the identity of the person signing by either personal knowledge of the individual or satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remotely located person either by oath from a credible witness or two types of identity proofing;
2. The notary can reasonably confirm that both the remotely located person and the notary are looking at the same document; and
3. The notary creates a recording of the notarization (which must be retained for ten (10) years).
Although many documents, including deeds, powers of attorney and health care proxies, can now be notarized remotely, there are categories of documents enumerated in the new law, including a Last Will and Testament, that are specifically excluded from remote notarization. A good practice with regarding Will signing is to have the testator, two witnesses, and the notary physically present in the same location at the time of the signing.
The permanent codification of remote notarization will continue to aid notaries, attorneys, and clients as we navigate the pandemic and move forward in the digital age. If you have any questions about how the new remote notarization laws may impact you, please do not hesitate to contact us.