Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the trend to move notarization online has finally made it to Missouri. But its applications go far beyond the present moment.
RON Isn’t Just for the Pandemic — It’s the Way Forward
In-person, wet-ink notarization has long been a valuable part of any secure transaction. The best notary publics bring calm confidence to any signing. They’re not just functionaries of the process — they can be wise and vigilant. They can even come with the courage to say “no” when they have to.
These professionals are crucial to our process.
But traditional in-person and wet-ink notarizations have their problems. First, sometimes the notary public is only needed for a few moments. Travel time becomes a drain on profitability. Then, we often have to add time and expense for sealed envelopes to travel by courier or mail.
In this digital age, there has to be a better way.
Remote Online Notarization, or RON, moves the whole process online. It also adds features and security benefits that expand the notary public’s ability to do good work and protect every person involved in the transaction.
Other states have tested the process successfully already. The first state to legalize RON was Virginia in 2011, and it’s slowly gained popularity since.
And though Governor Mike Parson had legalized a form of online notarization in Missouri earlier this year by executive order, that temporary solution had many limitations and risks, as well as an expiration date. On July 6th, the state legislature finally passed the formal RON legislation, which will become effective on August 28. Missouri is the twenty-seventh state to do so, and we hope that Illinois will pass similar legislation soon.
However, though the process is simple, many clients may have questions about its reliability. They also should know how this new kind of transaction will affect them. It’s a little bit different, and like all things that move from in-person to online, there’s a learning curve for everyone involved.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Remote Online Notarization?
Remote Online Notarization is a notarization process that occurs completely online. It happens over video conference—no wet ink or physical paper required. The entire process must be:
- Recorded with both the signee and the notary visible at all times
- Continuous and synchronous
- Documented digitally with an audit trail
- Tamper-sealed electronically
And though digital forms of notarization already exist (more on this in a moment), RON is the first non-hybrid process. RON’s features mitigate many of the security fears people have surrounding anything that happens over the Internet.
The laws surrounding its implementation make sure of it.
For RON to work (and be legal), the notary needs to see the person signing the document over video conference the whole time. This feature is crucial because part of a notary’s job is to assess a person’s intent while signing.
They continuously check for signs of duress or any other clues that the process isn’t above-board. They’ll also include a two-factor identification process unique to RON (we’ll cover this in a later section).
The software allows the signee and the notary to sign and seal the documents electronically while both parties are live on the call. The entire process happens in real-time. If something goes wrong — a hack or other interference — everyone will watch it happen.
Plus, if there are any questions about the validity of a signature or the person’s identity, the recording, documents, and other related files are available for later review. (The notary stores the video of the transaction itself for seven years.)
There’s also an audit trail, with each step in the process “sealed” with a date and time stamp. The notary still keeps a journal—though it’s digital in this case—and stores it with the video recording.
Finally, the document is tamper-sealed through an x.509 certificate. This is the same technology that authenticates Paypal transactions, online government identification, and other systems that require top-tier security protocol.
If the process is missing any of these elements, it’s not truly RON.
Other Valid Forms of Digital Notarization
Remote Online Notarization is not the only digital process available. All of them have their place in this new world, plus features that make them secure.
For example, In Person Electronic Notarization (IPEN) is when all of the documents and the signing are digital. Still, the whole process happens live and in-person. (Think of signing for your credit card purchase at a store using a digital pen.)
Paper Remote Online Notarization (PRON) is another hybrid version of online notarization. PRON produces at least one paper document with a wet-ink signature and wet-ink notarization, usually delivered through mail or courier.
Audio Visual Notarization (AVN) happens over video conference, but all of the documents are signed and notarized with wet ink.
RON, however, is the only all-digital process. If you’d still like more detail to sort out these differences, here’s an excellent video of the different types of online notarization from the American Land and Title Association (ALTA).
What Should Clients Know Before a Remote Online Notarization?
RON is a rigorous process, which is part of what makes it so safe.
First, the notary public reviews the signee’s credentials—usually two forms of identification—both through a scanned copy and live, over video conference. The notary’s expert eyes check for signs of tampering or damage. The software does, too.
They’ll also verify the validity of the documents by looking for features like correct fonts, holograms, and bar codes.
Then, the signee must confirm his or her identity verbally through two-factor identification live on the call. The process here is “Knowledge-Based Authentication (KBA),” a process most of us have experienced. Think of logging into your bank account, then answering a question only you would know.
For KBAs during a RON, though, the questions will likely go a little deeper than, “What was the brand of your first bike when you were a kid?”
The notary may ask a question drawn from a public or a proprietary data source—a credit report, for example. The signee will have a time limit, and only two attempts to answer the questions correctly.
That means they won’t have time for research or allowance for guessing.
The recording itself must be continuous and synchronous. No stopping and starting, and definitely no editing it together later. Once you begin the process, you have to keep going.
Expert Guidance through Remote Online Notarization
Though True Title implemented hybrid notarizations earlier this year, beginning August 28th, 2020, we will offer RON closings for the first time thanks to new technologies and changes in the law.
RON is a significant step forward for our region. Though Missouri moved forward in response to the pandemic through temporary executive orders, this long-term solution complements and even improves on previous systems of notarization.
The time was already ripe for a change.
We chose Pavaso as our Remote Online Notarization provider. Pavaso is easy-to-use, well-tested and trusted, and approved by the State of Missouri. Our closers are fully trained and can guide homebuyers through this process with complete confidence.
Have a closing coming up? Talk to one of us about Remote Online Notarization.