On March 22, 2020, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds issued a proclamation temporarily allowing documents in Iowa to be notarized remotely, subject to certain restrictions. This waiver lasts only for the duration of the COVID-19 state of public health disaster emergency, which is currently scheduled to expire on April 16, 2020.
During the emergency period, a notary public may perform a notarial act for a remotely located individual using communication and identity-proofing technology, but only if certain requirements are met. These requirements are set forth in guidance issued by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate.
- register with the Iowa Secretary of State before performing any remote notarial acts.
- use a software service designed to facilitate remote online notarization to perform notarial acts. Secretary Pate specifically includes eNotaryDox by Signix, Notarize, and DocVerify as examples of such software service.
- make and retain a recording of each remote notarial act using the appropriate software service.
Secretary Pate’s guidance also includes the following tips for notaries who perform notarial acts remotely:
- When you select a remote online notarization service, that service will provide you with training on how to use it. Follow that training so that you are best able to use the identity-proofing, oath-administration, e-signing, and other important features that the service provides.
- Verification of the customer’s identity is critical. Make certain that the video resolution through the service you use is sufficient to see identity-proofing documents clearly, and that the audio clarity is sufficient to understand everything the customer says.
- When deciding if the customer is answering your questions truthfully, use your best judgment. Remember that you are the professional, and that your professional reputation is at stake in every transaction. It is your legal responsibility to perform notarizations correctly under the law, so be certain you have read and understand all of the legal requirements under both the existing notary statute and the provisions added by the emergency proclamation.
Many of these guidelines are temporary, and last only during the emergency period. However, Governor Reynolds signed into law Senate File 475, which authorizes remote notary acts. That new law takes effect on July 1, 2020, and Secretary Pate will issue further guidance pertaining to the law at that time.
Davis Brown Law Firm Wills, Trusts & Probate and Government Relations attorneys are collaborating with the Iowa Association of Trusts and Estates Counsel to develop a tutorial for notaries on the new remote service. That resource will be posted on our Coronavirus/COVID-19 Legal Resources page along with our other resources.
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