The state of Washington has implemented a new law to allow a special endorsement for notaries so that they can notarize remotely. The new law went in place on July 1st 2018. We anticipate this to be a big change for real estate transactions, making it much more convenient for buyers and sellers when going through the closing process. This will also be helpful for those landlords and tenants who are signing longer leases that require a notary.
It was important for this new rule to be put in place as more and more buyers, sellers, and brokers use electronic signatures. There are three major reasons that a notary is necessary to verify a signing. First, they're there to confirm the identity of the signer. This is tremendously helpful in combating real estate fraud. The way that they identify the signer is through government-issued ID. They make sure to keep a log of the identification numbers they used to confirm this is the person that should be signing. The second major reason to have a signer appear in person with the notary is to verify their mental capacity. It's not expected the notary take the signer through a series of tests to verify their mental capacity, however, talking with them about what they are signing and interacting to verify their identity is a basic hurdle. This means making sure that the person signing understands what they're undertaking. Also, they need to make sure that the person isn't drunk. It's a last test or third-party verification of the mental capacity of the signer that the notary can provide. Lastly, having a document notarized is extremely useful in court. The reason is a notarized document is considered to be self-authenticating. If a document is self authenticated then the person or persons who signed it and had it notarized do not have to testify that they were actually the party who signed. The third-party notary has already done that and the document has been authenticated and doesn't need any further verification. This can be helpful especially when the signer is no longer available to testify to their signature. This is a great example as to why wills are so often notarized. By having it notarized the death of the party who signed the will doesn't affect its authenticity in court.
The new electronic notary standards will require specific technologies and are used in order to still meet the purposes they set out to fulfill. There will be standards regarding the quality of the imaging for government-issued ID, as well as technological fraud protection to identify the person through knowledge-based tests, such as confirming personal information about the signer. This is exactly like what you do when you call your bank. One of the proposed standards to meet the electronic notary requirements is keeping a video recording of the signing. This may be helpful in the event of a dispute, because they can always refer back to the video record.
As real estate professionals this is a welcomed addition to Washington state law that will help us to better serve our clients and keep up with technological changes.
The law that was changed was RCW 42.45.
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