COVID-19 Orders May Increase Accessibility to Remote Notary Services

By Margaret Gander-Vo, Real Estate & Land Use Attorney

Notarizing deeds, wills, and other documents during the COVID-19 pandemic while attempting to maintain recommended social distancing practices as created a significant challenge. Some banks are utilizing drive-up windows to facilitate necessary witnessing. Other offices have implemented systems where the notary and the signer take turns accessing and backing away from the documents that need to be witnessed. While this works to some degree for the general population, it has raised issues amongst people in high-risk populations or those caring for individuals deemed high risk, who nevertheless need to finalize transactions or documents.

Many states, including Oregon, are now considering emergency authorization that would allow for remote notarization using audiovisual technology. According to the National Notary Association, currently 23 states, including just recently Washington, allow for remote notarization but only 14 of those states have fully implemented laws in place that allow for remote notarization. Washington’s law was scheduled to be effective as of October 1, 2020, but was implemented under an emergency rulemaking order WSR 20-08-071 on March 26, 2020. The Washington Act allows for remote notarization under three circumstances (i) the notary knows the signatory; (ii) the notary knows a witness who will swear or attest to the identity of the signatory; or (iii) the signatory provides the notary with at least two pieces of identity proving documents. Any remote notarization must include “This notarial act involved the use of communication technology” and the notary record must be accompanied by an audio-visual recording of the notarization.

Twelve states, including New York and California, have active bills in their state legislatures authorizing the use of remote notarization. Some of these bills will allow for remote notaries only as part of the COVID-19 response while others propose a permanent authorization for remote notaries which will be effective on passage. Currently, Oregon law does not authorize the use of remote notaries, however, the Oregon Law Commission and Oregon State Bar have drafted a proposed bill for the previously anticipated special session, which may still be instituted in the form of an executive order.

Our office will continue to monitor this and other COVID-19 related updates in this rapidly changing environment. If you have a question regarding a particular transaction, please contact us. Our firm is working remotely, but we remain fully operational.


Margaret Gander-Vo is an attorney in the Real Estate & Land Use practice group. The information in this article is not intended to provide legal advice. For professional consultation, please contact Margaret at Saalfeld Griggs PC.  503.399.1070. © 2020 Saalfeld Griggs PC