In reading about notaries they talk about them having journals and I just imagine them having an actual notebook where they log their daily activities on paper. So then I looked up "online notaries" and found some stuff about Virginia offering electronic notary services via webcam. This is a fairly recent thing. That led to this Quora post on online notaries, and the individual behind NotaryCam said basically they are based in Virginia but that documents notarized with the electronic notaries service are legally valid in all 50 US states and across the world in almost every part.

However NotaryCam is relatively new (founded in 2012 it looks like), and their branding is less than stellar so it looks a little like a scam, and they seem like a very small operation, though they suggest they are the leading one in the space. I am wondering though if anyone knows or can verify that, yes, Electronic Notaries are actually a valid legal thing these days, and they should be used. I would also be interested to know if these electronic notaries are still recording their facts in paper journals, or if instead now their journals are all digital, stored in a platform like NotaryCam's database.

  • Also would be interesting to note if/how notaries can notarize a person signing an electronic document. They can't watch the persons computer from the webcam unless the person has a webcam separate from the computer. – Lance Pollard Dec 30 '18 at 5:33

There are multiple things that could be called "electronic notaries", and they are not all legally equal. The specific service you are referring to is remote notarization, and in the US it is legal in Montana and Virginia. They are not legal in Washington, because RCW 42.45.040 specifically requires that "the individual making the statement or executing the signature shall appear personally before the notarial officer". Virginia law was amended to include the provision that

"satisfactory evidence of identity" may be based on video and audio conference technology, in accordance with the standards for electronic video and audio communications...that permits the notary to communicate with and identify the principal at the time of the notarial act, provided that such identification is confirmed by ...[specified standards]

Those standards are compatible with a standard e-signature. The law does not contain any "must actually watch the hand" provision for any notarization.

Montana law is restricted to notarizations of signatures of legal residents and only in "state internal" matters (in-state titled property, things under state court jurisdiction); the signer must also be actually known by the notary or a credible witness (ID is not accepted).

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As described by user6726, a few US states allow electronic notarizations where the signer communicates by real-time audio-video communication as a substitute for physical presence; lets call this a remote notarization. It is also possible to perform an electronic notarization where the notary meets in person with the signer, and that is authorized in quite a few states. With in-person notarizations, states routinely accept notarizations performed in other states, in accordance with the laws of the place where the notarization was done. I have not heard of any court cases deciding whether a remote notarization where the notary was in one state and the signer was in a different state would be recognized.

Another barrier to acceptance of an electronically notarized document is that it necessarily is an electronic document, which are not accepted by some recipients.

The states that permit electronic notarizations (remote or in-person) vary in their journal policies. Some require paper, some require an electronic journal, some allow either, and some don't require any journal at all. Some of the states that allow remote notarization require that the notary retain a recording of the audio-video communication for a specified time.

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