Chris Craig's Blog

Stabilizing Your Future in Uncertain Times: What the SB 704 Virtual Notary Bill Means for Your Family

The General Assembly of North Carolina Enacts Senate Bill 704 to aid and support the public with remote online notarization in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 4, 2020, a new bill titled SB 704 was signed into North Carolina law, allowing the notarization of documents over virtual video platforms. While this authorization is only temporary (effective until August 1, 2020), it makes sense for those individuals and businesses that are affected by the COVID-19 crisis, allowing people to stay sheltered at home.

Lawyers across the state have been anxiously anticipating this change as it will help us to get clients’ estate planning and healthcare directives completed quickly and safely. The bill passed allows North Carolina lawyers like myself to digitally oversee the signing and proper witnessing of wills, powers of attorney, declarations of desire for a natural death, and other long-term planning tools such as trusts and deeds.

What is Remote Online Notarization?

Remote Online Notarization (RON) allows banks, title companies, law firms, and other businesses to complete important transactions that require signatures and a notary seal remotely with the aid of online audio and video technology like Zoom and Google Hangouts. While notaries are required to be present, signers may be located anywhere with most RON laws.

While many states already had laws in place, North Carolina has been reluctant to act on virtual notary rules until now. Virginia was the leader of the RON movement in 2011. This was the first bill in the country to allow commissioned Virginia electronic notaries to notarize documents online via audio-video technology. Virginia’s law was an integral part of establishing some of the key principles of RON, like defining “personal appearance,” how to verify the signer’s identity and the location of parties, and best practices for digital record keeping to ensure the notary seal is valid and tamper-proof.

I should note that remote notarization is different than eNotarization, which allows documents to be signed and notarized digitally but requires the signer to be present in the same room as the notary. RON takes that one step further and allows documents to be signed and notarized digitally and without the requirement of being in the same room, building, state, or, in some cases, the same country.

This small piece of legislation is just one of many acts our state has made to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since the quarantine began, my colleagues and I have lobbied hard for this change in the law, which will continue for as long as North Carolina is in a state of emergency in response to the global pandemic. I am also hopeful that this temporary bill will evolve into a permanent solution as more people demand the convenience and safety of remote notarization.

Planning for your future

The reality of COVID-19 has forced many families and individuals to address the “what if” scenarios that were previously unpleasant or unthinkable—or at least realize the importance of estate planning tasks that had previously been at the bottom of the to-do list. Many are reaching out to finalize estate plans they have put off signing, while others are wanting to start anew with estate planning, having heard how difficult it can be for family members to cope without a plan in place.

At Craig Associates PC, we are committed to offering creative solutions to get your important documents signed and in place. The coronavirus crisis has caused us to consider what matters most in life: protecting your loved ones, creating family, and cultivating stable and prosperous lives. We’d love to help with these endeavors and invite you to contact us today for a virtual meeting.

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