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WA & OR: Can Estate Planning Docs Be Notarized Through Video Technology?

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Notarizing estate planning documents is an important step to ensure validity and legal enforceability. Unfortunately, laws and institutions requiring notarization are a bit behind the times. While many people across the country have easy access to virtual video-conferencing services such as Zoom and Skype, as well as email and/or fax machines, many state laws still require notarizations and other official witnessing to be conducted in person. Some states have changed their laws in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for remote services to avoid the spread of infection. Whether those changes will be temporary or permanent varies by state, although there is reason to be optimistic that video-conferencing will be accepted on a more widespread basis in the future. Below, we discuss the current state of the notary laws in Washington State and Oregon. If you need help planning for your future, talk to a knowledgeable Vancouver trusts and estates lawyer.

Washington: Remote Notarization Effective March 2021

Historically, notarization in Washington has required in-person visits. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Jay Inslee signed a proclamation permitting remote notarization on a temporary basis, with specific requirements about how such notarizations were to be conducted. The proclamation was originally signed in March 2020 and was only effective for a short time.

Thankfully, Washington officials had already provided for a more permanent remote notarization program. A law regarding remote notarization was passed in 2019 and finally went into effect on March 16, 2021. The law requires notaries to obtain special certification to conduct remote notarization and set standards for how such notarizations shall be conducted, including for proving the identity of the signatories and other parties. The law also requires notaries to use specialized software that meets specified standards, including that the notaries and the signers can see and hear one another. The transaction must still be physically recorded in the notary’s journal.

Oregon: Remote Notarization Effective June 2021

Oregon has also taken steps to update its notary public system for the modern era. Oregon temporarily authorized remote notarization in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and used the temporary authorization as a trial period to evaluate such remote services. Finding that the trial period was successful, the state finally made the transition to permanent remote authorization this June.

The temporary authorization was set to expire on June 30. On June 15, 2021, Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 765 into law. Effective upon enactment, the new law authorizes remote online notarization (RON) for notaries who obtain additional training. The RON process in Oregon allows signers to log on to a RON platform remotely, verify their identity, and then meet the notary via webcam. The notary then verifies the signer’s identity via the traditional methods and confirms the signer’s awareness and desire to sign (or willingness to sign). The notary completes the proper certificate wording and ultimately affixes a digital certificate containing their electronic signature, which carries the weight of any other notarization. Oregon notaries can keep the entries in an electronic journal and must save an audio-visual recording of the transaction.

If you have questions about notarizing your trusts, drafting a will, or other estate planning instruments and how they could benefit you, contact the Vancouver offices of John Lutgens for a consultation on your Washington or Oregon estate plan.

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