Notaries in NC May Notarize Documents and Administer Oaths By Video Until March 2021

[UPDATED August 24, 2020]Alerts

[UPDATED] – North Carolina’s omnibus pandemic aid legislation includes a new statute that temporarily allows remote notarization and oaths by video. On July 1, remote notary and video witnessing, which was originally set to expire on August 1, 2020, was extended for seven more months – until March 1, 2021.

Signed into law on May 4, 2020, the Emergency Video Notarization law begins on page 31 of the 70-page aid legislation. The extension until March 1, 2021 appears on page 20 of new legislation signed on July 1, 2020.

In short, the personal appearance requirement for notarizations (including electronic notarizations) and oath administration is satisfied as long as the detailed requirements noted below are met.

North Carolina’s Secretary of State has also issued additional, updated guidance for notaries that includes “safe harbor” notary forms and a sample notary journal.

Here are the law’s basic requirements:

  • The video must be in real time and cannot be prerecorded.
  • It must allow two-way, simultaneous visual communication with sound.
  • The video quality must be good enough to allow an unobstructed view of the face of each participant as well as their identification.
  • While on video, the principal must verbally state which county in North Carolina they are located in and what documents are being signed. The notary also must be physically present in North Carolina.
  • If the notary does not have personal knowledge of the principal, the notary must require satisfactory evidence of the principal’s identity, such as a valid driver’s license.
  • The notary must observe on video the principal sign each document that requires notarization.
  • The principal must then transmit (email is permitted) a legible copy of the document to the notary on the same day the document is signed.
  • If an original (wet-signed) is not required, the notary may notarize the copy. Where an original is required, the notary must verify the original document’s authenticity upon receipt by comparing it to the copy and then notarize the original document.
  • The notary must record all emergency video notarizations in their journal, which must be retained by the notary for at least 10 years. A sample journal, including all statutory requirements, may be found here.

Original Documents Must Still Be Recorded and Filed

Notably, this new statute does not change any of the existing “originality verification requirements” for recordings with registers of deeds, clerks of superior court, or other government offices. In other words, this new statute does not relax requirements for recording and filing original documents, i.e. non-copies. It simply allows notarizing those originals to happen by video rather than in person.

Back to Business

North Carolina was not the first State (nor will it be the last) to adjust notarial requirements and other administerial tasks to balance business needs and the challenges dictated by the pandemic. For those familiar FaceTime, WebEx, or Zoom, §10B-25 makes it much easier to complete real estate and other transactional closings, depose witnesses under oath (recent alert here), finalize emergency medical documents, and otherwise ease back into doing business.

But Proceed With Caution

Despite this new convenience, businesses and their notaries should still take care and follow the rules to the letter. Businesses should also check with their lenders and title companies prior to conducting a video notarization as they may have stricter rules in place. Because these times may provide an incentive for fraud, businesses should be on high alert. Notarial acts are important and permanent. The last thing any business needs is to be victimized or face a challenge, years from now, on some technical deficiency with a notarization. Care, not convenience, should be your guide.