On April 8, 2020, Maine Governor Janet Mills issued an order allowing remote notarization and witnessing of most documents, including estate planning documents and documents necessary to complete real estate transactions and other business transactions.
State and local laws ordinarily provide that the notary and any witnesses be in the same location as the person whose oath is being taken. While the order is in effect, those requirements are suspended, subject to certain exceptions and several requirements.
The requirements of the order are extensive, and the order should be read carefully to ensure compliance. Highlights include the following requirements:
- The signatory, the notary, and any witnesses must be physically present in Maine while notarizing documents and must follow any guidance issued by the Maine Secretary of State on remote notarizations.
- The remote notarization and witnessing of documents must be completed via two-way audio-video communication technology that allows contemporaneous interaction between the participants by sight and sound in real time, and allows the notary to observe the actual signing.
- The notary must be able to reasonably identify the person signing the document by personal knowledge, photo identification presented during the video conference, or the oath or affirmation of a witness.
- The original version of the remotely-notarized document must be circulated within a certain period of time after signature for the notary’s and any witnesses’ original signatures.
- The notary must record the video conference and preserve the recording for at least five years.
Even though the order requires logistical gymnastics to satisfy all of its conditions, it provides a valuable alternative to having people gather together to sign a document.
In-person notarization is still allowed in the State of Maine, though anyone who chooses to do so should be cautious, practice social distancing, and be aware of any other order that might prohibit gatherings.
The order is effective as of April 8, 2020, and terminates 30 days after the termination of the COVID-19 state of emergency, unless otherwise amended or terminated.