Friday, April 24, 2020

Legislature Acts to Allow Virtual Notarization

Today House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and Senate President Karen E. Spilka along with their colleagues in the House of Representatives and the Senate passed legislation to authorize notary publics to perform notary actions using video conferencing during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

“During the public health emergency it has been difficult for the public to process certain legal transactions especially those on behalf of those who are sick or dying, therefore the Legislature acted to ensure notaries can conduct business virtually in order to adhere to physical distancing measures,” said Speaker Robert DeLeo (D – Winthrop). “We must make sure that families, individuals, and businesses can execute wills, proxies, real estate transactions, and other important documents during the COVID-19 public health crisis. I am grateful to Chairs Michlewitz and Cronin for their work to act on this important issue.”

"Allowing for virtual notarization will mean important legal transactions can continue unimpeded, which is good for our economy and the Commonwealth as a whole," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "I am pleased to see this legislation advance as it will provide a safe alternative for residents and businesses during this public health crisis. I'd like to thank Senators Michael Rodrigues, John Keenan, Minority Leader Bruce Tarr as well as Speaker DeLeo and our House partners for their collaboration on this issue."

The legislation applies requirements for authorized notary publics to use electronic video conferencing for documents requiring notarization including those related to a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate, will, nomination of guardian or conservator, caregiver authorization affidavit, trust, durable power of attorney, or health care proxy.

The legislation includes the following provisions, which will be in place until three business days after termination of the March 10, 2020 declaration of a State of Emergency:

· Authorizes a notary public appointed under the laws of the Commonwealth to perform an acknowledgement, affirmation or other notarial act using video conferencing in real time;
· Makes valid notarial acts using video conferencing when the notary public and each principal are physically located within the Commonwealth as well as other provisions;
· Requires notaries to record the video conference and retain a copy of the conference; and related documentation for 10 years.

"By enacting electronic notarization legislation, we will ensure that crucial area of our economy will continue to function in a safe and responsible manner throughout the COVID-19 public health crisis," said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Co-Chair of the Joint Committee on Ways & Means (D – Boston).

“This legislation will allow members of our communities to conduct necessary estate planning and real estate transactions safely without risking exposure to COVID-19 through the typical in-person notarization process,” said Representative Claire Cronin, House Chair of the Joint Committee on Judiciary (D – Easton). “Allowing for documents such as wills, durable powers of attorney, and deeds to be notarized utilizing video conferencing technology, while also including important safeguards to protect the integrity of the process, will enable these important transactions to continue to be carried out under existing public health restrictions. The steps taken by the House today will keep our communities safer during these unprecedented times."

“I am pleased Massachusetts has joined the over 30 states across the country that allow for remote notarization during this emergency,” said Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy). “We have given our families and friends facing difficult decisions, some peace of mind that they now have the ability to complete proper arrangements should they need to.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adjust many of our normal routines and the way we conduct business for the sake of protecting public health and safety,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R – North Reading). “This bill makes needed temporary changes to the notarization process to ensure that the execution of wills, the conveyance of property titles, and other important transactions can continue to take place while still observing proper safety protocols.”

“Documents like wills, trusts, healthcare proxies and those involving real estate are critically important, and we can't let them be out of reach because of the need for social distancing,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr (R- Gloucester). “This bill allows technology to bridge the gap between protecting public health and keeping the integrity of the notarization process - meaning that legal documents can resume doing the job of estate planning, protecting assets, and facilitating transactions during this public health emergency.”

The bill, which is the latest action by the Legislature to address the COVID-19 public health crisis and its effects on Massachusetts, has advanced to the Governor desk.

Legislature Acts to Allow Virtual Notarization
Legislature Acts to Allow Virtual Notarization

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