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Remote Notarization for some, not all documents, takes effect

October 15, 2020

In May of 2019, long before anyone knew what a coronavirus was, the Maryland General Assembly had already signed Senate Bill 678, which would take effect on October 1, 2020 and permanently authorize Maryland Notaries to perform remote online notarizations for signers in any location as long as the Notary is physically located within the state.

During a remote online notarization (RON), the signer and notary personally appear before each other over audio-video technology.  All documents are in electronic format and available to both parties. In order to proceed, the affiant must prove his or her identity by passing a series of authentications.  The document can be signed electronically, which the notary will verify and attach a certificate and seal.  The transaction is also recorded, and the signer is provided a copy.

Maryland remote notaries are authorized to perform the following notarial acts online:

  • Real estate purchases
  • Some retirement fund transactions
  • Administering an oath or affirmation
  • Taking a verification on oath or affirmation
  • Witnessing or attesting a signature
  • Certifying or attesting a copy

Notably, the governor’s Executive Orders 20-03-30-04 and 20-04-10-01 expanded the applicability by temporarily permitting the virtual notarization of these documents, as well as estate planning documents such as wills and trusts.  More notably, however, is the fact that the new statute, which supersedes both Executive Orders, does not permit estate planning documents to be remotely notarized.

While the remote notarization statute is a welcome convenience to document execution in Maryland, practitioners, notaries, and clients must all be aware of this important distinction moving forward.