The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated every legal and business trend, from Zoom meetings to outdoor dining. Remote notarization is no different, and sometimes lawmakers act without much fanfare.

On October 29, 2020, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law House Bill 2370, which permits remote notarizations of certain documents in Pennsylvania. The law takes immediate effect.

Under the new law, a notary public can notarize documents executed by a signatory who is not in the notary public's vicinity so long as the two parties appear before each other via communication technology. To conduct a remote notarization, the signatory and notary public must meet four requirements. First, the notary public must either have personal knowledge of the signatory, be presented with satisfactory evidence of the signatory's identity, or reasonably identify the signatory by at least two different forms of identity proofing processes. Second, the notary public must verify the document before them is the same document that the signatory is executing. Third, the notary public, or an agent of the notary public, must create an audio-visual recording of the notarial act. Fourth, the notarial certificate must indicate that the notarial act was performed through a form of communication technology.

With respect to the law's first requirement, if the notary public does not have personal knowledge of the signatory and the notary public is not presented with satisfactory evidence of the signatory's identity, the notary public can engage in a process of "identity proofing." The law defines identity proofing as "A process or service by which a third person provides a notary public with a means to verify the identity of a remotely located individual by a review of the personal information from public or private data sources."

Prior to the notary public's initial remote notarial act, the notary public must notify the Pennsylvania Department of State that the notary public will be performing notarizations via communication technology and identify the communication technology that the notary public intends to use. The notary public must also retain the audio-visual recording of the notarial act for at least 10 years.

The law defines "communication technology" as a device or process that allows the notary public located in Pennsylvania and the remote signatory to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound. The approved communication technology platforms are listed on the Pennsylvania Department of State website.

The law is a welcome addition to Pennsylvania, which, in following other states that have allowed remote notarization, will facilitate the completion of transactions where a notary is required as the need for social distancing and remote work continues.

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