CHARLESTON — Secretary of State Mac Warner announced today that he has promulgated an Emergency Rule establishing processes for West Virginia notaries to safely notarize documents remotely during the current State of Emergency.
In response to COVID-19 public health risks, the Governor issued Executive Order 11-20, which suspends the “personal appearance” requirements for a document to be notarized under W. Va. Code § 39-4-6.
The Emergency Rule is modeled after national standards for remote notary processes, which have been adopted during this national crisis. The purpose of the remote notary option is to protect the safety of WV notaries and individuals and the validity of notarized documents executed during the State of Emergency.
The Emergency Rule, which can be found at Code of State Rules § 153-45, sets forth procedures for notaries to witness the signing of a document remotely using an electronic device, technology, process or a combination of those electronic options.
"According to state and federal health officials, it is not safe during the current State of Emergency for individuals to come into close contact,” Warner said. “Notarizing documents is a key requirement for many essential processes in life, including buying or selling a house and applying for loans or government benefits. With the Governor’s Executive Order relaxing the in-person notary requirements, this Emergency Rule establishes a safe and secure procedure to ensure that essential life activities may continue during these difficult times.”
The remote notarization process allows a notary to use electronic audio and visual technology to witness an individual’s signature. The individual must then send the signed document, along with a form of approved identification, to the notary before the notarization and placement of the official notary stamp of seal.
The notary is also required to create an audio and visual recording of the performance of the individual signing and must retain a copy of that recording for set a period of time.
The provisions of the Emergency Rule establishing the remote notarization option is to remain in effect only during a State of Emergency. When the State of Emergency is lifted, remote notarization is no longer authorized, and the in-person requirement is reinstated.
Warner encourages all notaries to read the Emergency Rule and become familiar with the requirements before selecting a technology. For more information regarding the Emergency Rule, please contact the Secretary of State’s Office at 304-558-6000.