New coronavirus law allows notary publics in Massachusetts to witness signatures over video conferencing –

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People who need a notary to file power of attorney documents, close on a home or conduct other legal business can now do so over video conferencing after Gov. Charlie Baker signed the remote notarization bill Monday afternoon.
The new law, which came out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, allows notary publics to perform their jobs through video conferencing until three days after the COVID-19 state of emergency is lifted in Massachusetts. The notary publics can move forward and serve as witnesses for documents related to mortgages, wills, real estate title transfers, caregiver authorization affidavits and other legal matters.
The temporary provisions only apply for parties who are in Massachusetts.
“Allowing for virtual notarization will mean important legal transactions can continue unimpeded, which is good for our economy and the commonwealth as a whole,” Senate President Karen Spilka, an Ashland Democrat, said in a statement last week after the Legislature passed the bill.
Under the new law, notary publics can witness these signatures over a video conference after all the parties involved provide ID to prove their identity.
The parties must also affirm over the video conference that they are physically present in Massachusetts and and disclose whether anyone else is in the room, making that person visible to the notary public.
The documents are mailed to the notary public, who then stamps and signs the document. These documents must include a certificate indicating that the document was notarized remotely. The certificate must show the date, time and county where the document was notarized.
With mortgages and real estate title transfers, the notary public and each party must meet again over video where each person verifies the document sent to the notary public is the same one everyone signed during the first video conference.
Under the new law, notary publics have to create video and audio files of these video conferences and store the files for 10 years.
Sen. Bruce Tarr, a Gloucster Republican who filed a remote notarization bill in March, said the proposal that passed the Legislature bridges the gap between allowing legal business to continue and protecting the integrity of the notarization process.
“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,” he said in a statement.
The new law allows families, individuals and businesses to conduct legal business without violating the measures implemented during the state of emergency, House Speaker Robert DeLeo said in a statement last week.
“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,” the Winthrop Democrat said.
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