Vermont Implements Remote Notary Authorization

When Vermont enacted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts in 2018, the new law included a provision enabling a Notary to perform remote notarial acts but deferred the effective date of the provision to when the Secretary of State was able to adopt rules to implement it.  See 26 V.S.A. Sec. 5323. Those rules had not been adopted until the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Suddenly, with the implementation of the Governor’s stay-at-home orders, many realized that the traditional acknowledgement process involving personal appearances in the physical presence of the Notary was no longer feasible. In response, the Office of Professional Regulation, within the Secretary of State’s Office, issued Emergency Rules for Notaries Public and Remote Notarization (“Rules”) newly allowing remote acknowledgments. The Rules took effect on March 25, 2020, and remain in effect for 180 days. Regulatory guidance from the Secretary of State’s Office indicates that the procedures set forth in the Rules should be “used sparingly and only when a notary public and the signer of a record cannot be physically present in the same space.”

Highlights of these Rules include:

  • Clarification that the requirement for a personal appearance is satisfied if the Notary and the person executing the signature are communicating through a secure communication link using the protocols and standards prescribed in the Rules.
  • Provisions that Notaries holding a commission to perform notarial acts in Vermont may perform a remote notarial act while physically located in Vermont. Both the signer of the records and the Notary must be located in Vermont when the remote notarial act is performed.
  • Requirements that the notarial officer have:
    • personal knowledge of the identity of the individual;
    • satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remotely located individual by oath or affirmation from a credible witness appearing before the notarial officer; or
    • satisfactory evidence of the identity of the remotely located individual by using at least two different types of identification.
  • Requires that an e-notarial act be performed on a tangible record submitted to the Notary in its original paper format by the remotely located individual; or transmitted electronically to the Notary by the remotely located individual and printed by the Notary prior to the notarial act. The Notary must reasonably confirm that a record before the notarial officer is the same record on which the remotely located individual executed a signature.
  • Requirements that the notarial officer, or a person acting on behalf of the notarial officer, create an audio-visual recording of the performance of the notarial act, to be retained for at least 7 years.
  • A Requirement that the remote notarial act to comply with all other requirements for notarial acts set forth in 26 V.S.A. Chapter 103.

The notary acknowledgement must contain specific certificate language and other certificate requirements set forth in the Rules. The Rules include sample certificates that are sufficient for the purposes of performing a remote notarial act. For clarity, note that the Rules do not permit electronic notarization or remote online notarization of electronic documents.

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