By: Phil Rarick, Weston Estate Planning Attorney
Beginning January 1, 2020 Florida joins 20 other states allowing Remote Online Notarization or “RON” for deeds, mortgages and other instruments. Beginning July 1, 2020 RON will be available for “electronic wills” and other testamentary documents. See Florida Ch. 2019-71. This Alert will discuss the RON process for non-testamentary documents that will be of interest to real estate attorneys. A subsequent Alert designed for estate planning attorneys will discuss the new law’s requirements for Florida electronic wills and other estate planning documents that commence July 1.
Remote Online Notarization Process For Non-Testamentary Documents Such as Deeds and Mortgages
The RON process allows for execution of non-testamentary documents where the notary and signer are in separate locations. Essentially, any Florida requirement that a person sign in the presence of witnesses can be satisfied by using Skype, Face Time or other audio-visual technology that complies with the new law.
The RON process in a law firm office must follow eight steps:
1. The Firm uploads the document to be signed and notarized with a RON notary/service provider.
2. The notary confirms receipt of the document by sending notice to the Firm and signer.
3. The signer receives the notice and signs into the website.
4. The signer begins an authentication process by answering a series of questions. Note: all witnesses must go through the same authentication process as the principal.
5. The notary, signer and witnesses join in a two-way video conference, such as Google Hangouts, Face Time, or Skype and complete the authentication process.
6. While all parties can see each other in the two-way video, the signer signs and the notary electronically notarizes the documents.
7. The notary/service provider returns the signed documents to the Firm and signer.
8. The notary/service provider stores copies of the audio/video recording of the authentication process and other authentication data in the notary’s electronic journal. Note: the notary must maintain this journal for at least 10 years.
In Florida, two witnesses are required for a deed. Under the new law, the two witnesses must be physically present with either the notary or signer.
Notary Block for Deeds and Non-Testamentary Documents.
A suggested notary block for a person signing as an individual acting in his or her own right is:
STATE OF ________________________________
COUNTY OF ________________________________
The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of ☐ physical presence or ☐ online notarization, this (date) by (name of person acknowledging) , who is personally known to me or who has produced (type of identification) as identification.
[Notary Seal] Notary Public
Name typed, printed or stamped
My Commission Expires: ____________
Caution In The Brave New World: Finding A Qualified Custodian – and Lessons From AOL
Remote Online Notarization and Electronic Wills are here to stay. No doubt within a couple years all states will have adopted RON law’s. Of course with any new technology, there will be new companies seeking to profit from this new law. As pointed out in an excellent article in the Florida Bar Journal by attorneys Sarah Butters and Jenna Rubin (Danger Will Robinson: The New Frontier of Remote Online Notarization and Electronic Wills, Vol. 93, No.6, November/December 2019), 70% of new tech companies fail around 20 months after first raising financing, raising the obvious question: Will the qualified custodian still be in business when the testator dies and it is time to deposit the will with the court? Remember when AOL was the e-mail service of choice – until it wasn’t?
I have not yet identified RON service providers that I know are well established and reputable. I invite readers in states that have been using this new technology to advise of providers they have used and would recommend. I will report back on the names provided without identifying any person who has so responded. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information on this blog is of a general nature and is not intended to answer any individual’s legal questions. Do not rely on information presented herein to address your individual legal concerns. If you have a legal question about your individual facts and circumstances, you should consult an experienced Weston estate planning attorney. Your receipt of information from this website or blog does not create an attorney-client relationship and the legal privileges inherent therein.