Developments Regarding Indiana Remote Notarization
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) has had far-reaching impacts on the global economy, human interactions, and the ways in which business and personal transactions are conducted. In response to COVID-19, the President declared a national emergency and, in most states throughout the country, governors have issued executive “stay at home” or “shelter-in-place” orders limiting activities unless deemed essential. In Indiana, where Governor Holcomb first issued a “stay at home” Executive Order on March 23, 2020, businesses and individuals have been forced to review their operations and activities to accommodate these unprecedented times.
One response necessary to continue the flow of business and personal transactions has been to address the in-person requirement for the notarization of documents. In Indiana, notarization currently requires a party (the “principal”) to meet with a notary public in person so that the notary public may identify the party to a document and personally witness and attest to that party’s signature to the same. As a result of the “stay at home” executive order and “social distancing” requirements enacted to combat the spread of COVID-19, the ability to meet in person with a notary public has been largely interrupted. Consequently, state leaders, including the Governor, Secretary of State, and the Indiana State Bar Association, are working to expedite the implementation of remote notarization in Indiana to address this problem.
Even prior to the current pandemic, the need for remote notarization was recognized as more and more transactions, including real estate closings, were being conducted electronically and remotely.In 2018, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) adopted nationwide standards for online notarization. Legislation approving remote notarization became effective in Indiana on July 1, 2019, and administrative rules governing oversight and facilitation of remote notarization were set to go into effect July 1, 2020. Given the immediate need, Indiana officials took emergency action to implement the administrative rules for remote notarization, and those rules became effective March 31, 2020.
Remote notarization will allow an Indiana notary public to perform notarial services through use of an audio-visual communication platform through an approved vendor while signatures are captured on an electronic record.Note that this is different from electronic notarization, where the parties are in the physical presence of one another and sign documents with an electronic signature.
The Indiana Secretary of State’s office is currently working to review and approve vendors. As of April 20, 2020, the only vendor to be approved is Notarize Inc. Once completed, a list of approved vendors will be posted on the Indiana Secretary of State’s Business Services home page for public review.
- Active Indiana notaries may immediately apply to become a Remote Notary.
- Educational course requirements must be met prior to approval as a Remote Notary. (The Remote Notary Education and Exam became available April 7, 2020).
- While the Secretary of State’s office has not yet provided a release date for the Remote Technology Vendors List, interested parties are encouraged to check the Secretary of State’s Business Services home page regularly. Remote Technology Vendors must be selected from the published approved list.
The acceleration of the adoption of the administrative rules for remote notarization coupled with the work to approve a list of Remote Technology Vendors has the potential to ease and accommodate the notarization process for Hoosiers who have time-sensitive transactions that require notarization but are unable to meet in person with a notary, for health or other reasons. In the meantime, we look forward to continued developments in remote notarization in Indiana and foresee it will be a useful tool to help us serve our clients.