In these times of social distancing, a common worry among the public is how to lawfully execute important documentation when in-person contact is limited. This unusual state of affairs requires adapting our current laws to permit businesses to continue to run remotely, help attorneys effectively represent their clients, and allow the general public to continue their daily lives with minimal interruption.
On March 23, 2020, the Senate and General Assembly of the state of New Jersey unanimously passed bill A-3903, which allowed for remote notarial acts using “communication technology” during the State of Emergency. “Communication technology” is defined as an electronic device or process that allows the notary public and the remotely located individual to “communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound.” Common examples of communication technology that many of us have become familiar with over the past weeks are Skype, FaceTime, and ZOOM.
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In order to properly conduct the remote signing in accordance with the bill, the notary public must be able to communicate with the remote individual by sight and sound and must have personal knowledge of the individual that is signing, or satisfactory evidence demonstrating two types of identification must be produced. Moreover, the notary public must keep an audio-visual recording of the remote signing for a minimum of 10 years. The bill limited remote notarial acts to notary publics only and did not permit Wills and Codicils to be notarized remotely.
The New Jersey Legislature recognized the need to expand on the original bill, and on April 9, 2020, a new bill was introduced. The new bill contained the same substantive requirements as the original bill, however, it broadened the definition of persons permitted to conduct a remote notarization from only notary publics to all officers authorized to take oaths, affirmations, affidavits, and acknowledgments. This could include attorneys authorized to practice law in the state of New Jersey, county clerks, and surrogates, among others. Moreover, the new bill permitted Wills and Codicils to be notarized remotely.
On April 14, 2020, Governor Murphy signed the new bill into law. You may read the full text here.
At Bratton Law, we’re committed to making sure our clients are able to execute their estate planning documents safely and lawfully during this difficult time. If you have any questions on having your documents signed or notarized, please contact us.