COVID-19 Crisis Renews Interest in e-Notarization

Remote online notarization of documents, often called e-notarization, permits the execution of notarized documents via an audio-visual link between the signer and the notary. This eliminates the need for the signer and notary to be physically present in the same place, an idea that not surprisingly is getting new attention in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote online notarization has the support of many legal watchdog groups, including the American Bar Association.

As of the writing of this post, fourteen states have implemented permanent rules allowing remote online notarization, and thirteen additional states have temporarily authorized remote online notarization as an emergency during the COVID crisis. Unfortunately, Oregon is on neither list. The Oregon Law Commission formed a work group in May 2019 to consider remote online notarization. The work group included representatives of the legal, banking, and title insurance communities as well as the Secretary of State, County Clerks, and Oregon Judicial Department. In October 2019, the work group completed a recommended bill for the Legislature to consider, but so far nothing has come of it.  

In a letter dated March 27, 2020, the work group notified Oregon lawyers that in light of COVID-19, it was revisiting the proposed legislation with the goal of repackaging it for the Legislature as an emergency bill to take effect immediately. Remote online notarization, even if only temporary, would come in very handy during this time of social distancing. Hopefully the Legislature will consider the bill in the very near future.