AUGUSTA, Maine — Real estate agents and title companies are closing deals on homes already under contract while working remotely as much as possible. Despite Gov. Janet Mills' 'Stay Health at Home' order and social distancing requirements, documentation needing signatures under state-appointed notary public were still required to be done in person—until now.
On Wednesday, Mills signed an Executive Order allowing remote notarization to reduce in-person contact and promote physical distancing in response to COVID-19.
“Permitting remote notarizations will allow Maine people to conduct important business while minimizing in-person interactions, thereby protecting their health,” Mills said in a statement.
Under the new order, the laws that require the physical presence of a notary or witness are temporarily suspended, with the exception of solemnizing marriages, administering oaths to circulators of state or local direct initiative or referendum petitions and nomination petitions of candidates for electoral office, and absentee ballots in state and local elections.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a similar order on March 23. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 11 other states besides have issued new orders to allow remote notarization in addition to N.H. and now Maine. Fourteen states already had some form of permanent remote notarization laws on the books, according to the National Notary Association.
Mills' order also establishes parameters to conduct remote notarization services in order to safeguard the integrity of transactions and the important personal interests served by them. For example, the notary and signatory must be located physically within the State of Maine and complete the act of notarization or witnessing via two-way audio and video communication to allow for direct interaction in real time. Specific standards are built into the Order in an effort to continue access to services through remote means while still protecting the reliability of the acknowledgement.
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