The 2018 Minnesota Legislature is in the midst of reviewing and amending a proposal by several House members to enact the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, as amended, approved by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform States Laws, which would significantly update Minnesota’s laws on notarial acts. The House Bill 1609 and Senate Bill 893 are making their ways through the system. If you don’t remember how bills become law, Schoolhouse Rock’s How a Bill Becomes a Law is a helpful reminder. The House Bill was first introduced on February 23, 2017 and has since been revised and re-referred to both the Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee and the State Government Finance Committee as well as the Ways and Means Committee. So far, the recommendation has been to adopt the bill as amended so it is likely the bill will eventually become law.
What does this mean?
By adopting a version of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (2010), several aspects of notarial acts in Minnesota will be updated and revised to reflect today’s business world. Some elements of the changes are purely administrative such as including additional definitions for various aspects of notarial acts including “electronic,” “notary public,” “official stamp,” “person,” “record,” “sign,” and “state” while other changes go to the procedures governing notary publics.
One important new change will be the prohibition against notarizing documents when the “officer or the officer’s spouse is a party, in which either of them has a direct beneficial interest.” (Sec.4 [358.54]) Currently, Minnesota Statue 359.085, subd. 7 only forbids a notary from acknowledging, witnessing or attesting to his/her own signature. The updated law also puts in place standards for satisfactory evidence of identity of the individual appearing before a notary. (Sec. 5. [358.55 subd. 1]) Previously, there were no set standards for identification documents; now notaries have a proscribed method of verifying the identity of the individual appearing before them including personal knowledge and satisfactory evidence such as a passport, driver’s license, or government issued ID card, which is current or expired not more than three years before performance of the notarial act or some other form of government identification.
Remote online notarial acts
The most significant change under the new notary law is proposed Sec. 15 [358.645] subd. 1 which expands the definitions of “appear.” “personally appear,” or “in the presence of” to include “interacting with another individual by means of communication technology.” Such technology is defined in the proposed statute as an “electronic device or process that allows a notary public physically located in this state and a remotely located individual to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound and that, as necessary, makes reasonable accommodation for individuals with vision, hearing or speech impairments.”
By allowing a remote notary option, the issue of identity of the person appearing before the notary is addressed by utilization of an automated software or hard-ware based process or service through which a third person affirms the validity of a government-issued identification credential through review of public or proprietary data sources.
Assuming a notary has access to the requisite software and requisite identification verification provider, the option of remotely notarizing may create several business opportunities in the state. For individuals who are already licensed notaries, a quick Google search finds multiple opportunities for an individual to be employed from home as performing remote notary acts.
For businesses with notaries on staff who have the requisite technology already in place, adding a remote notary service to your list of offered services may create a new revenue stream and serve as a valuable tool to customers who are unable to come to an office to sign a document that must be notarized. Additionally, it provides law firms with the requisite technology and notaries on staff the opportunity to quickly and efficiently serve clients through instant remote signing and notarizing of time sensitive documents.
The adoption of the Revise Uniform Laws on Notarial Act in Minnesota would be a welcome change. In addition to providing improved guidance to notary publics, it would also create business opportunities and help current businesses serve clients in a mobile world more efficiently.
Disclaimer. Author Kim Lowe is a Uniform Law Commissioner and served on the study committee that helped draft House Bill 1609.
For almost 20 years Kim Lowe has lawyered from the trenches. Kim lawyers from experience, using her knowledge of the law and understanding of how both for-profit and nonprofit business enterprises operate.
Rachell Henning is a third-year student at Mitchell-Hamline School of Law's innovative Hybrid program. Rachell is an Avisen Fellow who enjoys spending time with her husband and two young daughters when she is not working or studying.