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Massachusetts virtual notarization act extended

by Liz Hughes

Virtual notary services will continue in the Bay State through Dec. 15, following the extension of the Virtual Notarization Act last week. 

Approved on April 23, 2020, Chapter 71 of the Acts of 2020 “An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19” gave Massachusetts residents the ability to use their electronic devices to meet virtually with a notary public to sign documents. The act stipulates the client and witnesses must be physically located in the state during the videoconference and must sign the documents by hand in ink. The act was originally set to expire on June 15. 

Earlier this month, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board and the Massachusetts Association of Realtors urged legislators to come up with a more permanent solution to the temporary measure enacted last year in response to the pandemic. And they’re not alone. 

Boston fintech company Stavvy co-founder Kosta Ligris has been closely following the progression of the state’s remote online notarization law and agrees.

“I think this is an opportunity for Massachusetts to adopt a permanent remote notarization law,” he said. “With lenders, consumers and other stakeholders looking for ways to save time, reduce costs and increase efficiency, remote online notarizations are a logical next step. We are in a transformative period, and there is no better time for Massachusetts to modernize the notary statute.”

The pandemic highlighted the need for more remote and virtual functionality. Earlier this year the National Association of Realtors said despite having the technology to handle things like remote digital real estate closings, laws and business practices still have some catching up to do. While the use of eSignatures and electronic records in real estate transactions has seen widespread adoption over the past year, remote online notarization use has been slower to catch on.

“Although electronic signatures have become mainstream in real estate transactions, there exists a serious void in permanent remote online notarization in many key states,” Ligris told Boston Agent. “Since notarization is a critical and required feature for certain legal and financial transactions, such as real estate closings and mortgage lending, permanent enabling laws that adopt remote online notarization are needed to move these transactions completely online.”

While the act was born out of necessity, it wasn’t an easy process.

“One of the major issues of the act was that Massachusetts does not allow for electronic signing of documents, and transactions must still be done in wet ink,” he said. “It simply took the in-person requirement and substituted live audio/video sessions. The act also requires a second video session wherein the notary confirms the wet signed documents they received are in fact the ones signed by the signatory.”

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