Executive Order Temporarily Modifies Requirements for In-Person Notarization and Acknowledgement in Maine
On April 8, 2020, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed an Executive Order titled “An Order Temporarily Modifying Certain In-Person Notarization and Acknowledgement Requirements.” The purpose of this Order is to enable citizens to execute critical estate planning, real estate, business, litigation and other documents in a manner that reduces in-person contact, and that in ordinary times are required to be executed in person before a notary public and/or witnesses under Maine law. Such documents include but are not limited to last wills and testaments, financial powers of attorney, healthcare powers of attorney, deeds, affidavits, and answer to interrogatories. The Order allows, during the period of the current health emergency, for such documents to be executed, notarized, and witnessed via two-way audio-video communication technology. The process has several requirements that must be adhered to carefully. The key requirements are as follows:
- The person signing the document (the “signatory”), the notary, and any witness must attest to being physically present in the State of Maine.
- The two-way audio-video technology must allow direct contemporaneous interaction between and among the signatory, the notary, and any witness, by sight and sound in real time.
- The signatory must be known to the notary or present a photo identification to the notary during the video conference, or if a witness is with the signatory, the witness can attest to the fact that the signatory is the person he or she attests to be.
- For Wills and Powers of Attorney, the notary or at least one witness must be an attorney licensed to practice in Maine.
- The document to be signed must be provided to the notary in advance.
- Before signing, the notary must be able to view the entire space where the signatory and any witness is present, and each must state their name in clear view of the notary.
- The signatory must affirmatively state what document is being signed.
- Each page of the document being witnessed must be shown to the notary and any witness via the audio-video technology and initialed by signatory in the presence of the notary and any witness.
- The act of signing and initialing must be captured up close by the technology.
- The signatory must send by fax or electronically a copy of the entire signed document to the notary and any witness within 24 hours of signing.
- The signatory must send the original signed document directly to the witness within 48 hours of signing, or to the notary if there was no witness involved.
- The witness must within 48 hours of receiving the original document send it to the second witness, or if no second witness, send to the notary. The second witness must within 48 hours, send the original document to the notary.
- Upon receipt of the original document and satisfactory comparison with the faxed or electronic document provided on the date of signing, the notary shall notarize the original document within 48 hours with the date of the remote technology signing, and must also add the words “Notarized (and/or Witnessed) remotely, in accordance with Executive Order 37 FY 19/20."
- The recording of the two-way audio-video communication must be preserved by the notary for five years.
The requirements here are somewhat cumbersome, but designed to maintain the integrity of processes under Maine law. Maine lawyers have the powers of notaries under Maine law. We at Verrill have the technology to facilitate remote notarization, witnessing and acknowledgement at our offices, and to preserve the recording as required. However, we understand that some clients may not have the technology necessary to fulfill these requirements from home or work. Clients should speak with their counsel to discuss their particular circumstances and concerns. Verrill remains committed to assisting our clients through these difficult times.