North Carolina is enacting legislation to make remote online notarization permanent

Last week, Gov. Cooper House signed Bill 776 that permanently codifies online remote notarization and restores emergency video notarization. Remote Online Notarization (“RON”) is effective July 1, 2023, and Emergency Video Notarization (“EVN”) is effective immediately.

Electronic notarization has been available in North Carolina since 2005 under the Electronic Notary Act. Under this law, regular notaries who meet the training and examination requirements of GS 10B-107 may register with the NC Secretary of State as “electronic notaries”. Electronic notaries have the possibility to carry out certain notarial acts electronically; However, electronic notarization requires the signer of the document to be in the physical presence of the notary.

The physical presence requirement became problematic during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina enacted a temporary EVN law in 2020 that allows all notaries (including regular notaries and electronic notaries) to issue certifications and oaths/certifications via video conferencing technology. EVN expired on December 31, 2021; However, House Bill 776 restored EVN to resume with immediate effect and ratified any EVN occurring after December 31, 2021 and before July 8, 2022.

In addition, House Bill 776 adds a new category of notaries – the remote electronic notary. A remote electronic notary can perform all of the notarial acts that an electronic notary can perform (e.g. certifications, jurats, verifications or proofs and oaths or certifications) but does not have to be in the physical presence of the signer. RONs may only be conducted using remote communications technology platforms that are secure, capable of recording and geolocation, and licensed by the NC Secretary of State.

Until the permanent RON comes into force, the EVN will continue to be available. House Bill 776 makes some changes to the EVN Act (codified under GS 10B-25) but leaves the rules enacted in 2020 mostly unchanged. The EVN law summarized:

  • Allows any North Carolina notary public to notarize a document via video conference for a signer in any North Carolina county.
  • As long as both parties are physically present in North Carolina, the “physical presence” requirement is met.
  • “Videoconferencing Technology” includes electronic communications that (i) can be recorded and (ii) occur in real-time so that the signer and the notary can clearly see and hear each other.
  • The notary must (i) know the signer personally, (ii) know a credible witness who also knows the signer, (iii) or obtain satisfactory proof of the signer’s identity through inspection of an identity card.
  • ID cards presented by the signer must (i) include the physical description and the signature of the signer, (ii) issued by a state, federal, or tribal agency, (iii) include a photograph of the person’s face, and (iv) be recent.
  • In addition to the ID, the signer must (i) indicate the county in which he or she is located, (ii) verbally state what type of document is being signed, (iii) hold the document on camera for the notary to examine, and (iv ) clearly show him signing the document.
  • Notaries are obliged to keep a journal of each EVN in a safe place for at least 10 years.

Once effective, RON will differ from EVN in several notable ways:

  • RON is not permitted on self-certified wills, revocable or irrevocable trusts, certification of beneficiary forms at death, wills, documents relating to the waiver of parental rights, or absentee voting records.
  • The electronic remote notary is obliged to do so Record the electronic remote notarization session and verify the signer’s location by geolocation.
  • Must include IDs either the physical description or signature of the signer in addition to the other requirements. The notary can reject the procedure if the presented ID does not meet the requirements.

The EVN will remain in force until June 30, 2023. After the expiry of the temporary EVN law, regular notaries will again need to appear in person for each certification; however, under RON, electronic notaries can still perform electronic and remote notarizations. It is unclear whether notaries currently registered with the NC SOS as electronic notaries will need to re-register as remote electronic notaries.

Communications Technology Platform Licensing and other specific rules related to RON are being developed by the NC Secretary of State and will be available prior to the July 2023 Effective Date.

The new law also immediately updates the fees that notaries can charge. For credits, jurats, verifications, or evidence, the fee increased from $5 to $10 per main signature. For oaths or assurances without a signature, the fee also increased from $5 to $10 per person, except for an oath or endorsement made to a credible witness to vouch for the identity of a principal or witness. Electronic notarization fee is $15 and remote notarization fee is $25 when RON becomes effective in July 2023.