By: Jonathan A. Cass and Alexander F. Barth
On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf approved Act 97 of 2020, which was added as section 306.1 of Title 57 (Act 97). Act 97 grants notaries in the Commonwealth the rights to use communication technology (e.g., video conferencing) to perform notarial acts for remotely located individuals. While this is a step towards modernizing the notary system, the required process to perform notary services remotely remains cumbersome at best.
To perform remote notarial services, a notary must first register with the Secretary of State. Before performing such acts, the notary must have personal knowledge of the identity of the individual, confirm the identity of the remotely located person by way of oath or affirmation from a witness appearing before the notary, or reasonably identify the remotely located individual by at least two different types of identity-proofing processes or services. If the individual is outside of the United States, additional simple criteria must be satisfied.
In addition to confirming identity, the notary must confirm and identify that the notary’s document is the same as the one being executed by the remotely located person. For remote notary services, the notary, or its communications vendor, must retain the audio-visual recording of the entire notary process, and this recording must be preserved for a minimum of 10 years. Finally, the notary must execute a Notarial Certificate identifying that the notarial act was performed remotely.
Accordingly, while the above-mentioned process allows for the use of modern communications technology and may prove useful as we enter winter with further COVID-19 related restrictions, remote notarial services may be time-consuming, and care should be made to plan ahead if such services are needed.